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Polk County Officials Say Vaccine Eligibility Will Not Expand Until 'Late Spring'; Moderna Boost Doses Will Not Be Delayed

Ahead of FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, employers are weighing whether to impose vaccine mandates.
Kirk Siegler
Amanda Bordeaux, 36, gets her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine during a weekly mass vaccination clinic at the Rosebud hospital in South Dakota.

Polk County health officials say they do not anticipate moving on to Phase 1B, Tier Two until at least next month, contrary to the predictions of state officials.

Polk County health officials say they likely will not be able to expand vaccine eligibility until at least next month.

At a press conference Tuesday, Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy said the county will not move on to vaccine Phase 1B, Tier 2 until 70 percent of Tier 1 is vaccinated.

This includes K-12 school staff, child care workers and first responders, along with Iowans 65 or older, a group in Polk County that makes up more than 100,000 residents.

Iowa Department of Public Health

The prediction means Polk County residents in Tier 2, which includes workers in food and manufacturing plants and Iowans with disabilities living in congregate settings, may need to wait longer than state officials have projected.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week that Tier 2 workers could be eligible early this month.

Eddy said when Polk County does expand its eligibility, it will require that qualifying Tier 2 frontline workers with underlying conditions go first, an added condition that's not required at the state level.

Eddy said that’s due to the county’s extremely limited vaccine supply.

"We may not have enough vaccine to vaccinate all of their frontline workers," she said. "So within even those frontline workers, they may need to prioritize depending upon vaccine supply."

County health officials also said Hy-Vee has stepped in to ensure thousands of residents will get their second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

This comes after they announced last week announced last week that up to 14,000 people who received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine through its public health department may be delayed in getting their follow-up shot.

That’s because the county was allocated significantly less of the Moderna vaccine this month than anticipated. Instead, county officials say they're now receiving mostly Pfizer vaccine doses. The two vaccines cannot be interchanged.

Eddy said Hy-Vee has offered to vaccinate those who need their second Moderna dose, and that everyone affected should get their second shot by March 15.

"We were projecting that it would take us until April 5 to April 12 to catch up those doses," she said. "So this is a significant improvement in that timeline, and we are so thankful to Hy-Vee for that."

County officials said the department will email those eligible to set up their second appointment at Hy-Vee.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter