BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Local health officials are encouraging residents to get informed about the soon-to-be rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to the state and county.
A state-developed priority schedule for the vaccines will dictate what groups are priorities for the initial supplies, and how fast the groupings will expand to include the general public.
Michele Ross, administrator at Lee County Health Department said the staff there has been planning for the rollout since the summer, and will be using phases set by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, that will begin in mid- to later parts of this month.
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Vaccines are expected to arrive in Iowa sometime next week. Those vaccines will be the Pfizer vaccine, which is has to be kept in freezing units capable of -95 degrees F. Once thawed the vaccine is stable for five days in a refrigerator at 35 degree F.
According to the Iowa Department of Public health, the state is expecting 26,000 doses this week. An additional 69,000 doses from Pfizer are expected in the next two weeks.
The Moderna vaccine which is stable at -4 degrees F. and can be held at 35 degrees for 30 days. The Pfizer vaccine has shown a 95% efficacy rate in clinical trials, while Moderna has a 94.5% efficacy rate against the virus.
State officials are expecting 77,000 doses of the Modern vaccine from Dec. 20 through the end of the year for a total of 172,000 of both brand’s doses. Both vaccines require a follow-up booster with Pfizer’s at 21 days and Moderna at 28.
“Due to limited vaccines available to start with, phase 1a will most likely be health care personnel and residents in long-term care facilities only,” Ross said.
“The state health department will preposition a portion of Iowa’s first allocation to health care facilities that are approved vaccine providers, and reserve allocations for the long-term care pharmacy partnerships.
Pharmacy partnerships are agreements that have already been established with providers such as CVS and Walgreens to help administer the vaccines due to staff at care centers already being at capacity work loads.
As part of the program the pharmacies are responsible scheduling, ordering supplies, ensuring management and administration of the vaccine, submitting data and reports, and adhering to all Centers for Medicare and Medicaid testing requirements.
Those services will be free of charge to the care centers. Facilities who’ve been matched to a pharmacy chain will coordinate with that pharmacy to administer the vaccine to residents and staff.
Ross said the vaccine is a personal choice and she encourages everyone to review information at the following links: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety.html.
“My opinion is that this is a personal choice to make and people are encouraged to review information on the (Centers for Disease Control) website links. There are many resources to help make informed choices,” Ross said.
“But also, be careful of scams and misinformation out there.”
Ross said it’s her understanding that first responders such as EMTs and EMS personnel are considered direct health care providers and would be included in phase 1a.
“Law enforcement/fire personnel who are not health care personnel, such as a dual EMT, will most likely be included in another phase or priority group, again determined by the ACIP and the state,” Ross said
She said as more vaccines arrive in the area, those priority groups will broaden in each phase to eventually include the general public later in 2021.
Health care organizations approved by the state will administer the vaccines to the general public when supplies allow. Ross said LCHD will administer vaccines through Points of Dispensing clinics (or PODs) in all phases of the rollout.
According to IDPH, the vaccine will be given to the public at no charge, however an administration fee set by the federal government may be charged to individuals or their insurance carriers.
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna have yet received Emergency Authorized Use from the FDA, but that is expected in the near future. That authorization is required before any dosing can occur.