Johnson County Board of Health prepping for COVID-19 vaccine

During its meeting on Wednesday, Johnson County Board of Health members discussed updates in COVID-19 vaccination preparations, including partnering with pharmacies in the area.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Adolescent and Women’s Health Services Coordinator, Sarah P. Dirks, gives a presentation on a Health Path Clinic update over Zoom at the Johnson County Board of Health meeting on Oct. 21.

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

The Johnson County Public Health is preparing for the eventual distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Johnson County Board of Health met via Zoom on Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 vaccination preparation and the current coronavirus case counts.

Johnson County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planner Steven Button provided the board with some updates on the COVID-19 vaccine coming to Iowa. He said that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has two vaccination scenarios, each with different quantities and handling and storage requirements.

Board of Health Director Dave Koch said the 14-day positivity rate is 5.4 percent for Johnson County and 12 percent for the state as of Wednesday. He said this number has been fairly consistent over the last several weeks. Johnson County has 14.3 new cases per day per 100,000.

On Oct. 16, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla released a statement that said the company will not seek approval for the COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration until the third week of November. Bourla said they expect to know whether the vaccine works by the end of October.

Once the vaccination is available, Johnson County Public Health will be the primary group allocating to different healthcare providers in the area, Button said. He said the vaccination allocations will occur through IRIS Electronic Healthcare Record.

“The vaccine will be shipped to health-care providers where it will be administered in order to limit the possibility of storage and handling issues,” Button said.

Once the vaccination is available, the federal government will issue guidance on groups to prioritize for the initial COVID-19 vaccinations, he said.

“There is initial speculation that this will be the critical workforce that provides health care and maintains essential functions of society, as well as, staff and residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities,” Button said. “National pharmaceutical chains will work with the CDC to provide vaccination services directly to long-term care facilities to vaccinate residents and staff.”

On Sept. 30, the CDC announced partner agreements with some national pharmaceutical chains to begin planning to provide the vaccination to people in long-term care and assisted living facilities. Button said pharmacies who participate will be responsible for storing and distributing the product and reporting on data they collect from the process.

Since Oct. 15, long-term care facilities have been able to register for onsite clinics with the national chain pharmacies to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to this critical population, Button said. He said the pharmacy partners will begin coordinating with facilities to schedule the clinics next month.

The Iowa Department of Public Health created a vaccine provider agreement for any health-care provider to sign so they can administer a vaccine and receive the necessary supplies. Button said they have to enroll in the COVID-19 vaccine program.

Button said Johnson County Public Health has established an internal COVID-19 planning group which will reach out to partners to ensure an effective and equitable distribution of the vaccine. He said they are working to make sure that critical populations, those who are more susceptible to contracting the disease, will have access to the vaccine.

The University of Iowa is one site for U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, one of hundreds of trial sites nationwide. The UI enrolled all its volunteers in the COVID-19 vaccine trial in September.