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Grinnell College is ready to host vaccination clinics, when the time is right

Dr. Laura Ferguson, physician at Family Medicine in Grinnell, receiving her COVID-19 vaccine. Photo contributed by UnityPoint.

Grinnell College has registered to become a vaccine distribution site, meaning that once COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available they may be administered at the College.   

The decision over whether to administer vaccines at the College would be made by public health authorities if they find it necessary, said Heather Cox, the College’s director of emergency management, in an email to The S&B. At the moment, College facilities aren’t needed because there aren’t enough doses available to necessitate a larger space for vaccine administration.  

Cox wrote that the College registered with the Iowa Department of Public Health to be a Vaccine Provider Organization. “The county and hospital are aware of our status as an approved organization, so the wheels can turn very quickly if they need to partner [with us] in the future.”   

So far, supplies of vaccines in Poweshiek County have been limited enough that extra space at the College isn’t required. According to Iowa Department of Public Health data, as of Feb. 25, 2,154 Poweshiek County residents, about 12 percent, have received their first dose, with 650 of those having received a second dose as well. That means the county has administered about 1,155 vaccine doses in the last three weeks. Poweshiek County and Iowa are still behind the national vaccination rate of nearly 14 percent.    

Poweshiek county still trails the US average for vaccinations.

But as the FDA mulls approving the single-dose vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson, vaccine supplies may increase rapidly. In addition to offering up large College-owned facilities, Cox said that Poweshiek County Public Health could ask for assistance from SHAW nurses in administering vaccines, should the number require it.  

The College also has freezers capable of maintaining the low temperatures required to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, something that Grinnell Regional Medical Center, the only other site where vaccines are currently being stored, can’t currently do.   

“We do have the capability to store both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines,” Cox wrote. “Freezer space has been designated for use by the county if needed, or for our use if direct procurement becomes available.”      

By press time, Public Health and GRMC had not responded to The S&B’s questions about when College facilities might be used for vaccine distribution. So far, all vaccinations have been carried out at GRMC with the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t need the same cold storage requirements as the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation.      

A small number of doses were also allocated for distribution by HyVee pharmacy on Feb. 19, according to a statement from Public Health. As of Feb. 26, all of those doses have been administered, according to the HyVee appointment scheduling website.      

For now, though, Poweshiek County Public Health is pushing forward with a rough schedule of two vaccination clinics each week, the most recent being held on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24. Residents who are eligible to be vaccinated under Iowa’s Phase 1B, including those 65 or over and some essential workers, can make an appointment for vaccination by calling Poweshiek County Public Health at (641) 269-9200.   

The next clinics will be held on March 2 and March 4; Public Health provides regular updates about the availability of appointments on its Facebook page.   

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