CORONAVIRUS

How will I know it's my turn for a COVID-19 vaccine?

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)

As officials continue the effort to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine across the state, how will Iowans know they qualify for a vaccine?

The Gazette has received dozens of questions from readers about the COVID-19 vaccine, and local public health departments say they are seeing the highest volume of calls since the pandemic began. Iowans are eager to receive their first dose, said Johnson County Public Health Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis.

It’s not yet known when older Iowans, those with chronic medical conditions and essential workers next in line will receive their vaccine. State public health officials who will set those priority populations have yet to release their guidelines.

The Gazette broke down what we know so far about the next phase of vaccine distribution. But once COVID-19 vaccines do become more widely available, how will Iowans know they are eligible to receive it? Here’s what we know:

How will I know when vaccines are available to me?

The group that advises the state on COVID-19 vaccine distribution is expected to make an announcement this week, the week of Jan. 11, on the priority populations who qualify for a vaccine after front-line health care workers.

Among those expected to receive the vaccine next are older adults, those with medical conditions that put them most at risk for COVID-19 illness and essential workers.

Local public health agencies are tasked with coordinating vaccination for those in their jurisdiction. Once local officials receive state guidelines on who should be vaccinated next, they will use “any means necessary” to notify the public. That includes — but isn’t limited to — social media, news releases and announcements through community partnerships, Jarvis said.

The state public health department will likely also make their vaccine guidelines for the next priority populations available to the public on its website.

Where will I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines will be available at your doctor’s office, your local pharmacy and many other facilities that have health care professionals on staff able to administer vaccine doses.

Local public health officials have worked diligently over the past several weeks to enroll providers with the state public health department to receive doses. Depending on the shipment the county receives, Jarvis said Johnson County Public Health plans to distribute doses across several providers to ensure one facility is not bearing the brunt of the vaccination effort.

Essential workers, or those who “play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace,” will be vaccinated in the next phase of distribution, per federal and state officials. They include law enforcement, food packaging and distribution workers, teachers and school staff and child care providers.

Vaccination for these populations will likely be coordinated through their employers, according to Jarvis.

How will state and local public health officials ensure everyone who qualifies for the vaccine receives one?

Jarvis said county public health departments are still waiting on specific guidelines from the state. He predicts doctors’ offices will work to notify patients with chronic medical conditions of vaccine availability.

Jarvis said his department is working with community partners to determine options for homebound residents, those who lack transportation and those who otherwise face barriers to getting a vaccine.

“There will be no stone unturned, there are a lot of modalities we are looking at, “ Jarvis said.

Johnson County Public Health is working with providers who have signed on to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to make distribution as effective as possible, in the hopes of ensuring the time between the first person vaccinated and the last person to be “as narrow as possible,” Jarvis said.

As the vaccine effort is underway across the country, there have been reports of some Americans receiving the vaccine because pharmacies had leftover doses on the shelves. Jarvis said his department is working to ensure that does not happen in Johnson County.

“We recognize the need to be methodical and planned out so we’re not wasting any supply,” Jarvis said.

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

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