February 10, 2021 – Dickinson County Public Health (DCPH) has been busy vaccinating those in the Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Phase 1B, Tier 1 grouping for COVID-19. Since the vaccine became available in late December, they’ve administered over 1,600 doses and completed 475 vaccination series.
Lakes Regional Healthcare Director of Population and Public Health Katy Burke said they’ve been administering doses as quickly as they receive them. “We are now receiving 300 doses on average rather than the previous allotments of 200 doses, and we’ve focused on giving them to those most vulnerable to COVID-19,” she said. “We expect to continue to receive similar allocations of the Moderna vaccine throughout the month of February, and will continue to focus on the most vulnerable residents within our county.”
DCPH is now turning its attention to individuals within Phase 1B’s 65 and older guidelines with health conditions that predispose them to having bad outcomes with COVID-19. An important way DCPH learns of who is most vulnerable is by reviewing questionnaires completed by area residents. The questionnaire is located on Lakes Regional Healthcare’s website or directly at www.surveymonkey.com/r/3MCHNZG. “Over 3,200 people have completed the questionnaire, and we have hundreds more that have called in to be on the waiting list. Many people call us every day asking if we received their questionnaire. We really appreciate how many people have taken the time to complete this because it allows us to risk stratify everyone to vaccinate those most vulnerable first while also following IDPH guidelines,” said Burke. “However, our small, yet extremely dedicated staff has a limited bandwidth to verify every person’s status on the waiting list. We hope people understand that if they did complete it, we did receive their questionnaire, and we will email or call them when they are able to get the vaccine.”
Each day nearly 100 people complete the questionnaire, which affects the prioritization of individuals to receive the vaccine. “For this reason,” said Burke, “it’s challenging to tell people where they are on the list. We realize there is heightened anticipation to receive the vaccine, but it is important they trust that we will call them once they’re able to get the vaccine. As long as they completed the questionnaire, they will be contacted eventually.”
DCPH has received comments saying people under age 65 have received the vaccine already in other parts of the state. Burke said this is quite possible because IDPH guidelines were to vaccinate people in Phase 1A first, which included healthcare workers and EMS volunteers. Many of these people were under age 65 but were highly likely to encounter people with COVID-19. Phase 1B includes people over age 65 plus first responders, education staff, and childcare workers, some of which may likely be under age 65. Individual county public health departments decide how to distribute the vaccine to the county’s population, whether it is strictly based on age or occupation or health conditions or a combination. DCPH is considering all criteria – age, occupation, health conditions – to risk stratify those in Dickinson County so those most vulnerable to COVID-19 get the vaccine first. People in other states or other counties may be receiving the vaccine more quickly due to the criteria their state or local public health department has decided to use to distribute the vaccine.