CORONAVIRUS

Next phase of COVID-19 vaccines for Johnson County will begin Monday

Residents 65 and older will be contacted by their health care provider

Staff nurse Rachel Lewis administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to emergency room nurse David Conway at the Un
Staff nurse Rachel Lewis administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to emergency room nurse David Conway at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Conway was the first individual in Iowa to receive the vaccine. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

On Monday, Johnson County will begin distributing COVID-19 vaccines to people who qualify under the state’s vaccine distribution plan, including residents 65 and older and certain essential workers.

The state announced earlier this month that it would begin administering shots to populations that fall under Phase 1B by Feb. 1, but warned the current stream of vaccines arriving in the state will likely create a slow rollout.

Johnson County Public Health announced this week that county residents 65 and older will receive their vaccine from their University of Iowa Health Care or Mercy Iowa City provider. Those providers will call or email qualified patients to schedule the vaccine appointment, and residents are asked not to contact their provider at this time.

UIHC officials said earlier this week its providers would identify those who want to be vaccinated using an online scheduling system. Existing UIHC patients can express interest using MyChart, and those not already in the system can register using a web portal.

The list will be prioritized using Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines, and it will be used for scheduling “as vaccine becomes available over the next several weeks and months.”

The supply of vaccines is limited, public health officials warned, so only a limited number of eligible patients will be contacted.

UIHC have not said how many doses it will receive, but officials expects it will be “in the several hundreds, up to 1,000,” said CEO Suresh Gunasekaran in a news conference Tuesday.

As the vaccine becomes more available, additional providers will schedule more appointments, public health officials say.

Gunasekaran noted that vaccine rollout is expected to increase in the coming months.

“There will be enough vaccine, and we will take care of you over the next several weeks and months,” he said. “We wanted to be sure to reassure all eligible patients across the Corridor that we are confident that the supply of vaccine will increase in February, March and April.”

Iowa’s Phase 1B distribution plan also includes other at-risk populations, such as people with disabilities living at home, as well as essential workers most at risk for exposure to the virus, such as food, manufacturing and distribution workers who work and live in congregate settings.

Priority for these populations is broken into five tiers, starting with first responders, Pre K-12 school, early education and child care workers.

Iowans 65 and older can get a vaccine at any point during Phase 1B rollout.

Johnson County Public Health plans to work directly with these organizations on vaccine delivery, and will instruct them which pharmacies are scheduling appointments for staff, officials announced.

Again, shots will likely be given on a limited basis. Public health officials said as the supply increases, additional providers and more appointments will be available.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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