Vanden Brink says 26% of county has received one shot of COVID-19 vaccine

By Scott Bestul

Public Health Director expects all residents to have vaccine access within the next eight weeks

Over one-quarter of Winneshiek County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Public Health Director Krista Vanden Brink. 
“We’re at 5,200 people, or about 26%, with one shot,” she said. “And 1,300 have received both.”
Despite that figure and other signs of progress in the war on coronavirus, the vaccine rollout is less than stellar for residents of northeast Iowa. The much-anticipated Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shipped to the Hawkeye State, but not this corner. 
“Seventeen counties have received shipments of the Janssen, but not Winneshiek,” Vanden Brink said. “Counties receiving the vaccine all had meat packing, or other manufacturing, businesses as major employers.”
Vanden Brink reported that the Pfizer vaccine, which previously required ultra-cold storage, had received FDA approval for storage in normal freezers. 
“This could result in more shipments to places that only have regular freezers, but we still don’t know when the vaccine is coming and how much will arrive,” she said. 
Vanden Brink also noted that her department had received a press release from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) last Thursday, stating that residents aged 18-64 with underlying health conditions could now be vaccinated.
“We received no other guidance about what those underlying conditions might be,” she said. “Since we’re still working our way through our 65-plus age group, we are holding off on this (younger) group right now. In other words, you may be eligible for the vaccine, but we may not have it for you.”
The county’s public health department will continue to receive only 300 doses of Moderna each week through March, which they share with Gundersen Health and Winneshiek Medical Center (WMC). Donlon Pharmacy receives separate allocations of the vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. 
According to Vanden Brink, the IDPH feels there will be enough vaccine in the state to vaccinate every Iowan within two months. In the discussion following Vanden Brink’s report, Auditor Ben Steines noted some residents will refuse the shot, but if the 70% vaccination rate is reached “we’ll be close to herd immunity.” 
Vanden Brink agreed and said getting a completely accurate count of vaccinated residents is very difficult. 
“Some people live here but work in Minnesota or Wisconsin,” she said. “If they get vaccinated at work, we have no record because the states are not sharing information at all.” Steines commented that “I guess when your phone quits ringing, we’ll know we are getting close.”

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