On track with vaccinations

Public health close to wrapping up first round of COVID-19 shots

— File photo Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator, holds boxes of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that arrived Dec. 21. The agency expects to finish round one vaccinations of healthcare workers in Hamilton County next week. Then they will begin administering the second dose.

Hamilton County Public Health received its first allotment of COVID-19 just before Christmas.

Officials with the agency got busy and started vaccinating area healthcare workers with the Moderna vaccine just days later.

Public health split its allotment with Van Diest Medical Center and Family Health Clinic. Hospital officials took care of vaccinating the staff there, starting with the front line workers with direct patient contact.

Next week, they’ll wrap up that first dose of vaccine and will be looking forward to administering the second dose of the shot.

Hamilton County Public Health Administrator Shelby Kroona said the county won’t be moving on to the next level of vaccine distribution quite yet.

— File photo Infection Prevention nurse Carla Johnson from Van Diest Medical Center administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Nikki Ehn.

Several counties with larger healthcare populations such as the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic systems, are still working to vaccinate employees.

“They are lagging behind in the proportion of healthcare workers being vaccinated there. So the state is slowing our allocations and diverting them to the larger healthcare systems in an attempt to keep the healthcare system stable – in case there’s another spike in coronavirus cases around the state,” she said.

No county will be able to move beyond 1A vaccinations — those for healthcare workers and longtern care facilities — until the entire state has completed the 1A vaccinations, she said.

“We know people are super anxious for us to get to that 1B population — those 75 and older and essential worker — but they have to be patient,” said Kroona.

She said the state is also helping to define the categories of essential workers.

“Just what is an essential worker? That is a large group,” she said. The states ethics committee will be working to develop subcategories so that counties can be fair how the vaccine is distributed.

“We needed more guidance than just ‘essential workers,'” she said.

Officials at the national level have revealed that it will likely be summer before the vaccine is available to the general public.

“I know people are anxious, but at the national level officials are saying this is going to be a slow process.,” she said.

The vaccination programs at longterm health care facilities in the area seem to be going well, according to Kroona.

“Southfield has received theirs and Crestview is scheduled for tomorrow. Stratford Rehab is scheduled for next week,” she said. “From what I’ve heard, everything is going smoothly.”

The health department has also been looking for volunteers who can assist with vaccination clinics once the shots become available for more people.

“When we have larger clinics and are needing more assistance, that’s when we’ll be calling on our volunteers,” she said. “We’ve had a pretty good response. I’m thankful that people are willing to step up an help. We’re a small department.”

The volunteers will help people fill out forms, answer questions, direct people to the different stations, and possibly monitor people during the waiting period after they receive their shot.

“The more help we get, the larger we can expand the clinics and get more people the vaccine,” she said.

Her department has continued to see a decline in testing, so it’s not immediately clear where the county stands in terms of infections.

“We’re seeing a lot less people requesting tests,” she said. “Can I say that that means the virus is not in our community? Absolutely not. It is definitely here.”

Kroona said she understands that people are anxious and eager to get the vaccine, but she asks that area residents be patient.

“The thing I’m hearing is people saying they want their shot so they can get back to a normal life,” Kroona said.

However, that normal life may be a long way off yet.

“We’ll still need to wear our masks for many, many months,” she said. “Even if I get the shot, I still need to practice those good public health practices of distancing, not going out and about a lot, wearing a mask and staying within my family group.”


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