Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
For people under 65 with underlying medical conditions, the road to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will be a long one.
County health departments have been fielding calls from people asking if their medical conditions make them eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and telling them no. Unless someone falls into the first tier of Phase 1B of vaccine distribution, they currently cannot receive a vaccine.
Phase 1B, Tier 1 includes people aged 65 and older, first responders, child care workers, and pre-K through 12th-grade school staff.
The Iowa Department of Public Health approved the Infectious Disease Advisory Council's recommendation for Phase 1C groups Feb. 4. Washington County Public Health Coordinator Danielle Pettit-Majewski said people under the age of 65 with certain medical conditions will be eligible to receive a vaccine in Phase 1C.
Qualifying medical conditions have been identified by the CDC as definitively or possibly creating an increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, and include cancer, Down syndrome, asthma, pregnancy and certain heart conditions, among others. A full list of medical conditions that put people at higher risk can be found at www.cdc.gov.
The problem is, county health departments have no idea when they will be able to begin Phase 1C.
Around 20 percent to 25 percent of residents in Washington County are 65 or older, Pettit-Majewski said, and they are currently only receiving 300 doses a week. Pharmacies such as Hy-Vee also are being allocated vaccines, but with the first tier of Phase 1B so large even before adding in the other eligible groups, there's no way of knowing how long it will take to vaccinate them all.
'Until we start getting more vaccines, more places, it's going to take a while to get through this population group,” Pettit-Majewski said.
Vaccine distribution has been affected by weather, slowing things even more. Jefferson County Public Health Administrator Christine Estle said as of Tuesday the county hadn't received its weekly allocation of vaccines due to weather, keeping it stuck in Memphis, Tenn.
Henry County also had to postpone administering the vaccine since they didn't receive their allocation of vaccines last week due to weather, County Public Health Coordinator Shelley Van Dorin said. The county has planned a clinic on March 4 to administer the vaccine.
When people call about receiving a vaccine, Van Dorin said all she can do is give them the facts of the situation. They're following state guidelines just like every other county, so they aren't able to give the vaccine out to anyone who isn't eligible.
The general feeling she's been seeing from the community is frustration, she said, but everything just depends on how much vaccine the county receives.
'They're frustrated, rightly so,” Van Dorin said. 'Everyone is ready to get on with their lives, get vaccinated and feel somewhat safe.”
Estle said it's a problem that people at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19 are not immediately eligible for the vaccine.
She added that the frustration is high for those at risk.
'It is problematic when we don't have any underlying comorbidities [eligible],” Estle said.