LINN COUNTY, IA – Linn County’s first allotment of COVID-19 vaccine arrived today at Mercy Cedar Rapids and UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s Hospital. Each hospital received 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to offer to frontline healthcare workers as part of phase 1a of vaccine distribution.
“As the first healthcare workers in Linn County receive the initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine, we celebrate this important tool in preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, and have additional hope for lessening the burden of disease to our community” said Tricia Kitzmann, Community Health Manager at Linn County Public Health. “This is an important step to eventually stopping this pandemic.”
“It is with tremendous gratitude and a sigh of relief for us at Linn County Public Health to see our partners in healthcare be the first to be vaccinated in our county. It is important for them to have this safety net so they may continue their critical role in responding to COVID-19 over the next several months. Since day one in this fight against COVID-19, these brave, selfless and compassionate men and women have sacrificed everything to care for our family, friends and neighbors at our local hospitals” Kitzmann added.
In addition to the vaccine available to healthcare personnel today, efforts continue to offer vaccine to resident of long-term care facilities, which are also priority populations in phase 1a of vaccine distribution. Long-term care residents are a critical group to be vaccinated considering Linn County has had 15 long-term care facility outbreaks and nearly 500 long-term care residents infected with COVID-19 to date. Among Linn County long-term care residents infected with COVID-19, over 100 died from complications of COVID-19. Overall, 86% of total Linn County COVID-19 deaths are in the 65 and older age groups.
Long-term care facilities have options for ensuring vaccine availability to their residents. One option is the national Long Term Care Pharmacy Partnership Program. Over 90% of Linn County long-term care facilities have signed up to participate in this program. The remainder of Linn County long-term care facilities are working closely with Linn County Public Health to ensure vaccines allocated to Linn County during phase 1a are available to their residents. It is anticipated vaccination of this priority population will occur in the coming weeks.
“While vaccines are an important tool to control the pandemic, we also need to stay vigilant in wearing masks, washing our hands and watching our distance until the pandemic is over. These are important to continue even after receiving the vaccine. We have many more months ahead of us before we can reach herd immunity” said Kitzmann.
The COVID-19 vaccine supply is expected to increase substantially in 2021 with other approved vaccines and eventually be available for everyone who wants to receive it. Once vaccine is adequately available, residents will be able to receive the vaccine at local pharmacies and some local clinics. Additional allocations of vaccine will be directed to Linn County from the Iowa Department of Public Health based on priority populations.
It is important that vaccine supplies are given to people in a fair, ethical and transparent way. The state of Iowa has initiated the Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC) to provide additional clinical guidance to Linn County Public Health to maintain an equitable distribution of the vaccines. Linn County Public Health will share additional information on vaccine availability to populations outside of those identified in phase 1a as recommendations are made at the state and national levels.
After the gold-standard review of scientific data from clinical trials including tens of thousands of people being administered the vaccine over several months, both the FDA and CDC found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be proven safe and prevent COVID-19 infection in 95% of cases. They found vaccine side effects to be mild, lasting about one day and typically occurring in people between ages 18 and 55 and not more frequently in those with preexisting conditions. Anticipated reaction to the vaccine includes pain or redness at the injection site, low grade fever, body aches, and headache. These reactions are evidence of your body producing an immune response, and usually subside within a few days. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for use by the FDA for those 16 and older, except for pregnant women and those potentially allergic to ingredients of the vaccine.