Not unlike “Operation Warp Speed” COVID-19 vaccine production, Hancock County Community Health Director Chelcee Schleuger says vaccinations to county healthcare workers are proceeding very quickly.
Working with Emergency Management, Hancock County received its first vaccine distribution on Dec. 22. Closed-point-of-dispensing vaccination clinics were held at Hancock County Memorial Hospital in Britt, as well as numerous small healthcare businesses such as doctor’s offices, acute care clinics, and pharmacies on Dec. 23.
Emergency responders and volunteers are also included in the initial groups of healthcare personnel that are eligible for the first shots, which require receiving two injections several weeks apart.
“It has been pretty hard and hectic doing this through the holidays, but we hope to have completed Phase 1a to healthcare workers across the county by the end of this week,” said Schleuger. “We will hold ongoing and follow-up clinics to ensure we get to everybody that wants the vaccine.”
Schleuger noted that as more public information is made available through the media and social media, and as more questions are answered by local public health officials, more people are electing to get vaccinated.
“The numbers have not been released yet, but the turnout at all the vaccination clinics has been very good and so we’ve been pleased with that,” she said. “The numbers keep growing.”’
Schleuger said Phase 1b is fast approaching now, which should include those deemed as essential front line workers who are not healthcare workers, as well as persons age 75 and older who are considered high-risk for the complications from the virus.
Phase 1c is expected to include people ages 65 through 74 years and ages 16 through 64 years with underlying medical conditions plus other essential workers.
Hancock County Community Health will be notified by the Iowa Department of Public Health when vaccinations can progress to the next phasing level. It is anticipated that COVID-19 vaccines may be more widely available by spring or summer 2021.
Schleuger said Hancock County Community Health is providing only the Moderna vaccine approved for emergency use during its Phase 1a vaccinations of healthcare workers. In Hancock County, all care centers are receiving vaccines (including the Pfizer vaccine) through the national pharmacy program, she noted.
Schleuger explained that the Moderna vaccines do not have the extreme cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccines, so they can be refrigerated and transported to each vaccination site in temperature monitored coolers.
She said that by working with Hancock County Emergency Management officials, they have received fairly firm numbers of participating healthcare workers, who meet all criteria for the shots, before going to each location along with a few extra vaccine doses.
“We are going to them and dispensing the vaccines at their locations,” said Schleuger. “It is by invite only within their own facilities.”
All the while, county public health officials continue to disseminate public health information about COVID-19 safety measures and requirements as well as the vaccination programs. Schleuger said public health staffers are available to answer any questions that people may have.
Hancock County public health officials urge everyone to continue to follow current safety measures such as avoiding crowds, practicing physical distancing, wearing masks and washing and disinfecting hands often.
They also advise that people who are vaccinated stay committed to CDC safety guidelines until there is widespread vaccination.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.