Hancock Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Buffington said he was first informed of the state's hold on Hancock County's 200-dose weekly vaccine allocation on Feb. 12.
The Iowa Governor’s Office informed officials of Hancock, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Poweshiek, and Washington counties late last week that they had not met the state’s new 80-percent usage requirement of their existing vaccine supply necessary to receive the most recent additional doses.
Since then, three of the counties — Buchanan, Washington and Chickasaw — reported that state officials had informed them they would be getting their allotment of vaccines this week, the Des Moines Register reported.
He noted that when Hancock County transitioned from Phase 1a to Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, it had a vaccine surplus. He did not disclose how large the surplus was.
“When we were allowed to move to Phase 1b on Feb. 1, Hancock County Health System Community Health went through them relatively quickly. They were great at delivering more doses to the people that were eligible and were willing to take the vaccine,” Buffington said.
Buffington said Hancock County Health System Community Health Director Chelcee Schleuger has communicated with the governor's office and Iowa Department of Public Health staff about why it was determined the county fell short of the 80 percent requirement and about having the 200-dose allocation released as soon as possible. Schleuger referred calls to Jodi Ball, HCHS marketing director.
Ball stressed multiple times that no vaccination clinics will be canceled. She said HCHS was found to have missed the 80 percent threshold solely because the state counts were completed last Wednesday, Feb. 10, before HCHS held additional clinics each of the next two days. She noted that the new state rule was just implemented.
“We administered more than 500 vaccines last week,” said Ball. “Including the doses given on Thursday and Friday, the threshold was far exceeded.”
She confirmed that Community Health Director Schleuger and other staff, including MercyOne, worked with the state to help prevent potential for disruptions to the Hancock County vaccine rollout. Declining to say whether any vaccine doses for this week have been restored after reaching out to state officials, Ball said their assistance put any concerns about clinics in the county being impacted to rest. She maintained that Hancock County was prepared to continue its clinics without any cancellations regardless of the inquiry to the state.
“Everything remains the same while we are still working to get that small allocation,” said Buffington. “It is really business as usual as we continue with vaccination appointments and we will still be calling those on the list (for vaccination). I don’t think it will even slow us down.”
Buffington said county officials are hopeful they will receive additional boxes of vaccine (100 doses per box in 10 vials) on top of the 200 doses in upcoming weekly allocations. Hancock County is only utilizing the Moderna mRNA vaccine in its COVID-19 vaccination program at this time.
Buffington thanked the public for its continued patience. Unlike last month, he said he has not heard of any angry calls from people impatient about getting vaccinated.
“There have been a lot of rules changes regarding the vaccinations,” said Buffington. “We are staying adaptable and stand ready to make changes as necessary. I am still waiting for someone to tell me exactly what happened here. The hope is that they will release this allocation because of vaccine distribution or a vaccination clinic that wasn’t taken into account.”
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.