June 24, 2021

Vaccinations ramping up in Jasper County

Health officials expect to start vaccinating people with chronic health conditions mid-March

Vaccine distribution is going well in Jasper County.

Almost 10,000 people have been vaccinated so far in the county, local health officials said Saturday, March 6 during an online meeting hosted by Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton. By the end of the month, all of the schools in the region will have received their second dose of vaccine.

Between the Jasper County Health Department, the clinics and pharmacies in each community and businesses like Hy-Vee — which receives its vaccine directly from the Iowa Department of Public Health — several doses have been administered to citizens and workers within the mostly rural region.

When it comes to having agencies distributing vaccine, Jasper County Public Health Coordinator Kristina Winfield says, “The more the merrier.”

By having multiple sources for people to choose from, vaccine can be allocated faster. Winfield said March is an important month for health officials because the people who were given their first dose during the start of Phase 1B will now be receiving their second — and final — shot.

In the coming week, mass clinics are opening up for those second doses, particularly in the school districts. Winfield said Baxter, Colfax-Mingo, Lynnville-Sully and PCM school districts should be done by that time. Newton will likely be ready for their mass immunization clinic by late March.

“We’re about ready to have them completely done, and we’re excited about that,” she said. “We’ll feel a little relief once we kind of get past that phase.”

Newton Clinic Administrator Mark Thayer said his clinic has had a great week. The Newton Clinic has given more than 1,150 doses since Feb. 27.

“It’s just been an awesome experience to see the patients,” Thayer said. “Most of the patients got their second dose. I would say probably two-thirds of those. So we have a good number of patients … who are now fully vaccinated.”

Thayer believes Newton Clinic is probably close to — if not, at — market saturation for people in the age group 65 and up, reasoning that there are still about 120 openings for shots that have yet to be filled.

“I think, with a relatively high amount of confidence, beginning the week of March 15 we’ll be able to start vaccinating that next tier Gov. Reynolds announced late Thursday night with people who have chronic conditions,” Thayer said.

The end of the road, Thayer added, will be very near in the next couple months.

Of the 9,990 people vaccinated in Jasper County, about 3,090 have received their first dose while more than 3,000 have received their second. Breckenridge noted those numbers don’t add up, and there’s a reason for that.

The numbers reflect those administered in Jasper County.

“I’ve talked to multiple people that have gone over into Polk County or … Knoxville,Chariton … So I think you might be surprised how many people are Jasper County residents that may be getting their shots somewhere other than Jasper County,” Breckenridge said.

On the flip side, people living outside of Jasper County may be coming in to receive their shots because of their employment and so forth, he added.

Breckenridge, health officials answer questions

Steven Farver asked how officials would verify people’s chronic health conditions, noting the apparent complications that go along with that. He suggested some people could be dishonest but clarified he had not heard stories in which this scenario actually happened.

Winfield said the county health department hasn’t had a lot of time plan their approach for that specific tier in Phase 1B, but staff are going to trust people.

“If they say they have an underlying medical condition, then you are eligible,” Winfield said. “It’s going to be impossible to look into everybody’s medical record. We could give 10 shots by the time we made sure somebody actually had that medical condition. So we’re hoping that people be honest.”

From the Newton Clinic’s perspective, it’s easier for Thayer and his staff to check a person’s medical records to confirm any chronic conditions. So Thayer has less concerns about the scenario Farver entertained.

Linda Wormley asked if there will be centralized records of people who have had their COVID-19 shot. Winfield said Iowa does have a system in place called the Immunization Registry Information System (IRIS). Every immunization goes into that system for the permanent record. However, there’s no national database.

Other spectators asked how many people were estimated to be in the tier for those individuals with underlying health conditions. Thayer estimated about 5,000 people in Jasper County, but noted some overlapped in other tiers.

Another person asked if the county health department received any of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Winfield said her department did not receive any, but Hy-Vee did.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.