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State Recommends Iowans 75 And Older, Other High Risk Populations To Be In Next Phase Of COVID-19 Vaccinations

The state has recommended that Iowans 75 and older as well as certain high risk populations be in the next phase for the COVID-19 vaccine.

State health officials have released guidance for which groups will be included in the next COVID-19 vaccination phase.

The group was based on recommendations from the state’s Infectious Disease Advisory Council. It includes people 75 and older and other vulnerable populations such as those with developmental disabilities and experiencing homeless living in congregate settings, employees of food and manufacturing plants who cannot social distance, correctional facility staff and inmates, school staff and childcare workers and first responders.

Interim state public health department director Kelly Garcia told the House Human Resources Committee on Tuesday that the state plans to begin vaccinations in the next phase "no later than Feb. 1."

Garcia said she has also added some inspectors "responsible for health, life and safety," such as surveyors who go into long term care facilities, as well as government officials and staff to the recommendation list.

Garcia said the state is aiming to vaccinate 60 to 70 percent of Iowa's health care workers before it moves onto phase 1B, and the state is estimating to that it will require around 300,000 to 400,000 doses of the vaccine to complete phase 1A, which includes health care workers and the staff and residents of long term care facilities.

According to data released by IDPH on Monday, more than 96,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Iowa so far. Just 5,652 people have completed both shots.

Garcia said the state has received about 226,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and is currently receiving about 40,000 doses a week, half of which are being allocated to chain pharmacies Walgreens, CVS and Nebraska-based Community Pharmacy to vaccinate the more than 70,000 residents and staff at the state's long term care facilities.

Ken Sharp, who directs IDPH's acute disease prevention, emergency response and environmental health division, told lawmakers all of the state's long-term care facilities are expected to receive their first dose by the end of January, after which the approximately 20,000 weekly doses allocated to the state's nursing home vaccination program will be directed back to local public health departments.

Garcia said approximately 50 percent of the doses in the next phase will be given to Iowans 75 and older, and 50 percent will go to the other high risk groups.

She said the state will consider opening up to other groups when it starts receiving more doses.

"We will quickly pivot to move to a space that is really prioritized around age 65 and above — broader age categories — are 65 and younger, which could be [starting at age] 15 or 18, depending on the type of vaccine, with comorbidities, and that could be a really significant number of Iowans,” she said.

Sharp said even though the state is planning to start the next round of vaccinations next month, people still need to be patient.

"So we think we're going to be in a position to turn on phase 1B eligibility around Feb. 1, what we need everybody to understand is not everybody's going to get their vaccine on Feb. 2," he said.

State officials said more information will be provided soon on where people in phase 1B can get their vaccinations.