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County to receive booster vaccine doses; state announces additional priority group guidelines
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County to receive booster vaccine doses; state announces additional priority group guidelines

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All Care Health Center customer service representative Zuleyma Espinoza records a video on her phone as Julie Adkins, a registered nurse and team lead, prepares her Moderna COVID-19 vaccine dose on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.

Pottawattamie County received word it will receive COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for individuals who have received the first shot of the Moderna vaccine. Additionally, the state has released additional information about vaccine priority groups.

Public Health Director Matt Wyant said his department received word it will receive 1,600 doses to cover people who received the first shot Dec. 22-24.

"That was stress-relieving, to put it mildly," Wyant said of the booster dose allotment.

The Moderna vaccine requires two shots, 28 days apart. Wyant said another 600 booster doses should be allocated next week.

The county recently received an additional 700 first shot -- or prime -- doses, which will be administered to health care workers and first responders on Saturday. The clinic is open only to those who were invited to register.

Health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff and first responders were among priority group 1A for vaccine distribution.

Wyant noted the state has altered the makeup of 1A three times, with it now expanded to all staff at such facilities. With the 700 doses for Saturday's round of prime dose vaccinations, he said he believes that will leave the county about 1,000 away from completing that priority group.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health released information about priority group 1B. The state's Infectious Disease Advisory Council recommended phase 1B will include individuals 75 and older, individuals with disabilities living in home settings, correctional facilities, other congregate settings and meatpacking plant workers. IDPH Interim Director Kelly Garcia accepted those recommendations, and added inspectors responsible for health, life and safety as well as government officials, including staff, "to ensure continuity of government, engaged in state business at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session."

Individuals will not have to prove residency or citizenship.

In a letter to Garcia, IDAC Chair Ken Sharp noted concern among the council regarding several factors in considering frontline essential workforce, including: uncertainty in the timing of increased vaccine availability in Iowa; a vaccine shortage that continues to challenge vaccination strategies; a large number of Iowans included in the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices priority group recommendations, as drafted, that exceed current vaccine allocations; and a desire to prioritize individuals that are vulnerable to high risk of exposure or severity.

The council noted that due to the current and short-term projections for vaccine allocation for Iowa, it recommends the following, more narrowly defined, eligible populations for Phase 1b:

Individuals 75 or older, or the following populations vulnerable to high risk of exposure or severity of illness:

● Individuals with disabilities living in home settings whom are dependent on attendant care staff, and their attendant care staff, if not otherwise vaccinated under Phase 1a.

● Correctional facility staff and individuals incarcerated, including state and city or county operated facilities.

● Staff of and individuals living in congregate settings, not covered by the first two bullets, including shelters, sober living homes, behavioral health treatment centers, and detention centers. College dormitories shall not be included as part of Phase 1B.

● Where public health data indicates outbreaks or clusters of disease among food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing workers whom work in or live in congregate settings that do not allow for social distancing. For example, working in a meatpacking or manufacturing production line or migrant workers whom live in bunkroom style housing.

● PK-12 school staff, early childhood education, and childcare workers. Sub-prioritization should consider persons who work with younger and at-risk children in care, to better ensure child-wellbeing and mitigate impact to parent workforce.

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● First responders (e.g., firefighters, police officers, and dependent adult abuse and child welfare social workers).

● Inspectors responsible for health, life and safety, including those in hospital and long-term care settings, child, and food production safety.

● Government officials, including staff, to ensure continuity of government, engaged in state business at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session.

The council recommended an allocation strategy, during a vaccine shortage, that includes:

● 50% of the vaccine allocation shall be dedicated to priority age populations and individuals of all ages with co-morbidities.

● 50% of the vaccine allocation shall be dedicated to the populations vulnerable to high risk of exposure or severity of illness.

● Allocations shall be monitored and adjusted to ensure efficient and timely use of available vaccine doses.

Allocation will be based on population data, proportionate by county.

“I am grateful for the incredible work of the Infectious Disease Advisory Council. The work of this group is critical to ensuring Iowa’s most vulnerable are protected and have access to the COVID-19 vaccine," Garcia said through her office. "In a situation where there is not a playbook to follow, the thoughtful dialogue and recommendations reflect their deep commitment to equity and making the right decisions in the best interest of all Iowans."

IDPH said it will take approximately 300,000 to 400,000 doses of vaccine to complete phase 1A, and the state has received 226,000 doses so far. Vaccination of the phase 1B populations is slated to begin by Feb. 1, though the department noted the timeline is subject to change. The rollout during phase 1A has been slower than initially announced by the state.

The IDPH released information on vaccinations in the state on Monday that showed there have been 4,283 first doses vaccinations in Pottawattamie County, including 2,060 among county residents -- the difference account for employees in the county who live elsewhere. The count includes long-term care facility vaccinations.

As of Monday, the state reported only one person in the county had received a booster dose.

State data showed Pottawattamie County was at 8,774 total COVID-19 cases during the pandemic as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, out of 40,807 individuals tested, with 7,554 recoveries. The county's 14-day rate dipped slightly to 16.5%.

Wyant said he believes, based on surges on the coasts, new strains of coronavirus and past indicators, that cases in the area will increase in the coming weeks.

IDPH noted that while vaccine is being distributed, vigilance is still needed:

● Wear a mask or face covering.

● Practice social distancing with those outside your household.

● Clean your hands frequently with soap and water.

● Stay home if you feel sick.

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