BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Iowa’s Interim Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Kelly Garcia, has moved government officials and respective staffs ahead of Iowa seniors on the priority list for COVID vaccines.
Garcia accepted a Monday recommendation from the Infectious Disease Advisory Council to focus on those 75 years of age or older, or populations with high risk to exposure or severity of illness with “significant health conditions”.
Those populations include correctional facility staff and inmates at all state facilities’ individuals with disabilities in home settings who are dependent on care; individuals living in congregate settings, excluding college dormitories; anywhere indicating clusters of disease in food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing workers in congregate settings; PK-12 school staff; and first responders.
On Tuesday, Garcia added state-licensed inspectors, and government officials and their staff at the Iowa Capitol to the recommendations.
The Centers for Disease Control Tuesday morning recommended vaccines be given to all Americans 65 and older as health experts predict an uptick in available vaccine supplies.
But Iowa’s officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“As of today we’ve learned from the federal government of significant increased availability of the vaccine based on each state’s ability to distribute supply quickly and number of residents over age 65, or under age 65 with significant health conditions. Once we have reasonable confidence that supply meets the demands of this broader eligibility criteria, we will activate the broader distribution criteria. From the very beginning from this distribution effort, it has been our goal to reach all Iowans,” Garcia wrote in letter to Keith Sharp, chairman of the IDAC.
Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross said she was disappointed that Iowans 65 and older weren’t included in the recommendation.
“I was hoping our state would have also included those 65 years of age and those with high risk health conditions in phase 1B,” Ross said.
“It was disappointing to see additional age groups and health risk categories were not included. We will continue to move forward with our local coordination of vaccine supply and will begin vaccinating those in the next phase when it is activated by the state”.
Locally, Chris McKay, administrator at The Madison, in Fort Madison said that facility got Pfizer vaccinations Tuesday and is scheduled to get boosters on Feb. 2.
Leia Morrison, director at The Kensington said they are scheduled to get vaccines on Thursday of this week, and Mallory Hymes administrator at Montrose Health Center said they won’t receive any vaccines until Jan. 25.
All Lee County long-term care facilities are getting vaccines through a nationwide partnership with Walgreens. The federal government set up a cooperative arrangement to have Walgreens, CVS and Managed Health Care Associates offer onsite COVID-19 vaccination services.
Hymes said she was disappointed in the delay.
“We were originally made aware that we would be getting the vaccines around Christmas and I was off for a couple days around that holiday, and then when I get back I find out we’re not getting them until late January,” she said.
“I just don’t get why it keeps moving and moving.”
McKay said working through a pharmacy seemed to have caused some of the delays.
“We have licensed people here who can give vaccinations. If they would have just distributed the vaccines to the health department we would have picked them up and administered them ourselves,” McKay said. “I think that would have been more efficient.
None of the three facilities said the virus has caused problems in the delay, but they are still under lock downs.