116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Though the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is making its way into the community slowly so far, the effects of the inoculations seem to already be having a local impact on the spread of the virus.
In the two months since front-line health care workers began receiving the vaccine, UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids officials say they are seeing a reduction of the number of new cases among their staff.
Health system officials say data they've collected shows a distinct difference in infection rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated team members as soon as two weeks after the first doses were administered to health care workers.
By the third and fourth weeks, infections 'reached a near zero rate of increase” among vaccinated staff, officials said. Meanwhile, positive COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated staff continued to climb.
'Over time, you see that the farther along we get, very few of the COVID cases are in the vaccinated group,” said Dr. Ignatius Brady, a UnityPoint Health physician who studied the data.
The data studies 4,075 health care workers in Cedar Rapids and Anamosa between Dec. 15 and Feb. 5. In that time, over 3,100 staff received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine either from Pfizer or Moderna.
UnityPoint Health's data shows there were about 10 cases among vaccinated staff by the second week of the vaccination effort, according to the data. That total increased slightly by the end of the fourth week, but saw no increases in the subsequent days.
Cases among unvaccinated staff, however, climbed steadily and reached nearly 80 cases, the data shows.
Though unvaccinated staff make up a smaller portion of the overall study by the end of the seven-week period, COVID-19 cases among that group correlates with infection rates in the surrounding community, officials said.
Brady said this data, while limited, makes the argument that the vaccine does work after a couple of weeks - even with just the first dose.
'The cases flatline before a second dose could reasonably be expected to be doing anything, so we know the first job begins to block infections,” Brady said. 'What we can't infer from what we have here is whether this benefit would last. Presumably, the second dose is necessary for optimum durability of response.”
The acceptance rate among UnityPoint Health staff is about 92 percent, which Brady said leaves officials 'very confident that risk has been successfully minimized for any spread of (COVID-19) between co-workers and patients.”
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids reported about 75 percent of its health care workers are fully vaccinated as of the end of the week.
More than 47,000 doses have been administered to Linn County residents and more than 44,000 doses have been given to Johnson County residents as of Saturday, according to state data.
Phase 1A vaccinations mostly complete
The majority of the health care workforce, which qualifies for a vaccine under Phase 1A of the state's plan, in the Corridor have been vaccinated, local public health officials say.
However, it's difficult for public health officials to put an 'end date” on any of the phases, said Sam Jarvis, community health manager at Johnson County Public Health. There will always be new qualifiers because of a new job status, a birthday or because someone who declined a vaccine earlier may decide to get the shot after all.
The public health agencies in Linn and Johnson counties both noted they continue to work with agencies and organizations to ensure all eligible people who want a vaccine will receive them.
'As supply still is scarce, we will have to continue to touch base with our partners to assess ongoing needs while we're actively making progress to vaccinate those in Phase 1B,” Jarvis said. 'It's a lot of juggling while supply is limited.”
Jarvis said somewhere between 15,000 and 16,000 candidates eligible under Phase 1A have received their shots.
As of Friday, University of Iowa Health Care reported more than 12,500 employees have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which includes nearly 9,500 who also have had their final shot.
Demand under Phase 1B higher than supply
In addition to health care workers, thousands have now been vaccinated under Phase 1B of the distribution plan, which includes Iowans 65 and older as well as teachers, child care staff and other essential workers.
The demand for vaccines still is far outweighing the supply at this time, and available appointments typically fill within minutes, local health care officials say. In Linn County alone, about 36,000 residents are 65 and older.
Jarvis, with Johnson County Public Health, estimates about 6,000 to 7,000 older residents have received a vaccine to date, either from a hospital or a pharmacy.
Mercy Medical Center reported it has vaccinated nearly 7,000 senior patients as of last week.
Of the eligible patients across the counties in the UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids region - Linn, Benton, Cedar and Jones - the health system has vaccinated nearly 5,000 residents, said Stacey Barrett, UnityPoint Health vice president for clinic operations.
Officials prioritized that cohort by focusing on its patients who were 75 and older and who have multiple underlying health conditions, Barrett said. Now, the effort is focused solely on those aged 75 and older, regardless of their health status, and eventually will include patients in the 65-74 age range.
Barrett noted that UnityPoint Health has established a preliminary schedule for patients wanting a vaccine. Appointments are booked into April, she said.
'We want to assure them that we know who they are, and they will get a vaccine if they want it,” Barrett said.
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