CORONAVIRUS

When will older, medically fragile Iowans receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

State should offer guidance on vaccines for next priority population this week

Syringes are seen prepared along with bandages to give doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to health care work
Syringes are seen prepared along with bandages to give doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Update: The state announced Tuesday updated vaccination guidelines for older Iowans, with the priority groups being age 75 and older, those with medical conditions and essential workers in the next rollout. Read more here.

Previous coverage:

When will you receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Though vaccine rollout is well underway for front-line health care workers, those who qualify under the next priority groups in Iowa — including older adults and those with chronic medical conditions — are still waiting for word from the state on when they can receive their first dose.

The Gazette has received several questions from readers wondering when they can expect to receive the vaccine.

So when will Iowans over 65 or with medical conditions be vaccinated? Here’s what we know:

An Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman told The Gazette that the group that advises the state on COVID-19 vaccine distribution is expected to issue recommendations for the “1B” and “1C” priority populations sometime this week, the week of Jan. 11.

The 1B and 1C groups refer to subset groups within the first phase of the vaccine rollout. Front-line health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are part of the 1A group.

The Infectious Disease Advisory Council is the state group tasked with setting population priorities and developing vaccine distribution guidelines.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The group has discussed considerations for older Iowans and those with serious medical conditions, “along with discussing many other variables that would put a person at high-risk for either exposure to COVID-19 or high-risk for illness as the result of a COVID-19 infection,” the spokeswoman said.

However, state officials did not offer any insight as to when these populations would begin to receive their first doses. The spokeswoman did not immediately respond to The Gazette’s follow up questions.

Local public health agencies across the state, which are coordinating and leading the effort to vaccinate Iowans in their jurisdictions, also have not received word from the state when vaccines will be available, said Sam Jarvis, community health manager at Johnson County Public Health.

“We have no indication of a date,” Jarvis said Monday.

Though other states are beginning to vaccinate this older and medically fragile population, some state public health experts who spoke to The Gazette say it could be several weeks before inoculation for this group begins.

Jarvis said local officials are also waiting to see what the available vaccine supply will be, which could greatly affect the distribution timeline. Johnson County plans to distribute whatever doses are available broadly across several providers, to ensure one facility is not bearing the brunt of the county’s vaccine effort.

Who qualifies in the next priority group?

State officials will identify which Iowans need the vaccine first.

Iowa’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy document defines those who are considered as part of the 1B priority group. That guidance can be found on the Iowa Department of Health’s site.

Individuals considered part of the 1B group include:

Those who “play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace,” including law enforcement, food packaging and distribution workers, teachers and school staff and child care providers.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Those 65 and older, including Iowans living in residential care facilities, assisted living programs, elder group homes and independent living facilities.

Adults with high risk medical conditions who have risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness. These conditions include: cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD; immunocompromised state from organ transplant; obesity; serious heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies; sickle cell disease; and Type 2 diabetes.

However, the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution guidelines do not specify who qualifies under the 1C population. Jarvis said local public health agencies are waiting for further definition of these groups from the state.

Polk County Public Health, which includes Des Moines, announced a tentative timeline for vaccine distribution based on federal guidelines this past week that does include the expected populations for groups 1A, 1B and 1C.

According to Polk County Public Health, phase 1B includes:

• Frontline essential workers, including law enforcement, manufacturing workers, those who work in the educational sector and others.

• People 75 and older.

Those included in group 1C, which would receive the vaccine after 1B, are:

• People between the ages of 65-74 years of age.

• People aged 16-64 years with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

• Other essential workers, including those who work in food service, housing construction and finance, communications, law, public safety and public health.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Polk County Public Health did not clarify why its definition differs from the state’s guidelines, and the state public health department did not immediately respond to The Gazette’s questions.

Vaccine distribution for the general public will begin after phase 1C is complete, which is expected to occur mid- to late-2021, according to Polk County Public Health.

In previous public statements, Gov. Kim Reynolds has said the state is also following vaccine guidance issued by federal authorities.

The full playbook issued by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found on the CDC’s website.

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

Do you have questions about the vaccine? Ask them in this form:

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.