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The Scarlet & Black

Hope on the horizon as Poweshiek County prepares to receive first batches of vaccine in coming weeks

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is counting on the vaccine to kick-start Iowa’s Coronavirus recovery. Graphic by Tess Kerkhof.

A select few residents of Poweshiek County will be receiving doses of the new Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year. In addition to healthcare workers at Grinnell Regional Medical Center, residents of the retirement communities around Poweshiek County will be among the first to be vaccinated.

The news comes as the United States embarks on a nationwide race to deliver vaccines to more than 300 million people as quickly as possible. Throughout Iowa, as in Poweshiek County, the first doses of vaccines will be given to health care personnel and residents in long-term care facilities, as prescribed by the Department of Public Health’s vaccination strategy. Next in line will be critical workers outside of healthcare and those facing heightened risks due to existing medical conditions.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will require two doses before they are fully effective.

Kellie McGriff, associate director of Mayflower Community, said the facility expects to receive its first vaccines around Dec. 28. All residents and workers should have received both doses by Mar. 1, 2021, she said.

The vaccines are being provided as part of the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, in which major pharmacy chains will administer vaccines to staff members and residents of long-term care facilities. Omnicare, a division of CVS, will administer the vaccines to Mayflower staff and residents. The program is being paid for by the federal government.

Despite the imminent roll-out, vaccines will remain in short supply in Iowa for the next several months. Governor Kim Reynolds announced in a Dec. 3 press conference that Iowa expects to receive a total of 172,000 doses by the end of the year, consisting of about 95,000 doses of the already-approved Pfizer vaccine, and about 77,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

McGriff said she does not currently know which of the two vaccines will be provided to Mayflower.

Receiving the vaccine won’t be mandatory at the care facility, and it’s possible that some might choose not to receive the inoculation. McGriff cited legal uncertainty and the risk that employees who did not want to be vaccinated might leave for another company as reasons not to require vaccination. “We don’t want to force our workforce to do something that they do not want to do,” she said.

The other vaccinations set to happen in the coming weeks will be coordinated by Poweshiek County Public Health, with staff members of Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) administering the shots, said Tiffany Norman, an executive assistant at GRMC.

Vaccinations cannot come quickly enough for a state which has seen one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. More than 3,000 people in Iowa have been killed by the novel coronavirus, 21 of them in Poweshiek County, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).

As of Dec. 16, according to the IDPH data, one in 17 residents of the county has been infected. And before a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, winter weather is likely to drive more people indoors into closer proximity with each other across the state.

Yet the vaccine puts hope on the horizon. “Our residents have lived through smallpox and polio and other types of vaccines and different illnesses,” said McGriff. “With any vaccine there’s that sense of hope, especially after we’re nearing almost a year of this now, it is a sense of hope.”

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