BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Lee County health officials got “shot in the arm” of a different sort Tuesday morning when a FedEx truck carrying 500 additional doses of vaccines showed up at the door of LCHD during it’s first drive-thru vaccination clinic.
On a chilly overcast morning, LCHD officials and volunteers moved a well-spaced cavalcade of vehicles through the former Iowa State Penitentiary grounds starting at 9 a.m., to the south parking lot where vaccinations were being given by health officials in Fort Madison.
After a brief review of paperwork for each individual with an appointment, vehicles were pulled from one tent to a second where the vaccinations were administered.
Then vehicles were pulled in to a staging area where volunteers monitored people for 15 to 30 minutes for any rare reactions to the medications. As of 10:15, volunteer Amy Cook, said there hadn’t been any problems.
“Nothing that I’m aware of,” a bundled up Cook said. “It’s really been very smooth so far.”
Cars had magnetic timers put on them to keep track of the monitoring process and then those vaccinated just pulled out of the parking lot and headed on their way.
During the first hour of vaccinations a FedEx truck pulled onto the grounds.
LCHD Administrator Michele Ross said the truck carried 500 more doses of vaccines. She said the county can now start scheduling more appointments in Phase 1b, which includes teachers, social workers and first responders in the first tier.
The staff scheduled five to seven appointments every half hour on Tuesday to make sure the system ran efficiently. They have already started adding appointments to Thursday with a possible extra day of vaccinations on Friday if the system can be put in place quickly enough.
“We had a few kinks early in the morning, but today was a test day to work out those kinks, so when we start having large clinic days will have a smoothly operating clinic flow,” Ross said.
“We’ll add more for our Thursday clinic and then any future clinics we’ll know about how many we can fit in in a day and as things progress we can adjust.”
Ross said Friday is still an option.
“We’re talking about a Friday clinic. We’re looking to see how this works, and of course you have to have manpower and womanpower to operate,” she said. “We’ll have a ‘hotwash’ after this and evaluate the process and clinic flow and talk about improvements that need to be done, and we’ll use those for future clinics.”
Ross said they decided to use a a drive-thru clinic because of the older population.
“This way they wouldn’t have to get out of their cars and walk all over, especially in these wintry conditions. And we can also maintain that social distance. The lobby is set up by chairs, but we wouldn’t be able to have several people at once,” Ross said.
“We’re trying to keep people socially distanced in their car and therefore less amount of people gathering.”
She said prior to the uptick in vaccinations and the state moving to the 65+ and over group, vaccinations were done inside the LCHD offices.
Mary Russell, of Fort Madison, said she just got a call back yesterday with an appointment. She said she believes everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances.
“I think it’s been great,” Russell said. “As bad as this pandemic has been, I’m not sure they could have done anything different. I just think they are doing all they can.”
Pat Morrison, an 81-year-old from Fort Madison, said she called into LCHD several weeks ago and then was called with an appointment for today.
She said the process was very easy and had no problems with the injection. She said the funniest part was the arrival.
“It was kind of funny we started clear back by the dairy place and then they wound us all they way through to here,” Morrison said.
“But all we had to do was go over some paperwork at the first tent and then they moved us up for the shot and then over here. It’s really been very smooth.”
Ross said they heard additional vaccines might have been coming Tuesday, but said there is no certainty in the doses being sent so people 65 and over just need to make sure they are on the county’s list by calling 319-376-1077.
She said conversations are taking place with other groups in the Phase 1b Tier system about possibly setting up vaccinations based on supplies.
“We’re operating under the advisement that 50% are for the tiers and 50% are for those in the senior groups,” Ross said.
Booster vaccination appointments are being given to each person being vaccinated so that individual will come back at the same time and place 28 days later.
Once individuals call and are place on the list there is no need to call back to check-in. Health officials will call individuals in the order they were added to the list, with appointments for vaccinations. Ross said staff cannot provide any estimates of when appointments might be scheduled.
Ross said a big thank you needed to go to the ISP staff for helping get the parking lot set up including ice and snow removal, and to the Lee County Sheriff’s Department for having deputies on scene to help mitigate traffic flow in and out of the clinic.