Phase 1B vaccine rollout may take longer than expected in Johnson County, public health officials warn

Feb. 1 marks the beginning of the 2nd phase of Iowa’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution program, but it still may be months before everyone in Phase 1B gets their shot.


Jeff Sigmund

The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine vial is seen on Tuesday, Dec.22, 2020 at the Iowa City VA Health Care System’s hospital.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

It may be several months before everyone in the next phase of Johnson County’s COVID-19 vaccination program receives their shot, public health officials warned Monday.

Johnson County’s COVID-19 vaccination program is scheduled to expand to Phase 1B on Feb. 1, which includes people over the age of 65, first responders, K-12 school staff, and prison staff and inmates, but the county’s allocation of doses will determine the speed at which they can receive the vaccine.

“Knowing that we’re entering into Phase 1B, we believe we will go back down to a ‘bear’s share’, pro-rata allocation, which we’re not anticipating being very high,” Johnson County Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis said.

Jarvis said that last week the county had been allocated around 800 doses, and that the weekly allocation varies between a few hundred and a few thousand.

“Well, maybe it’s feasible for us to do several thousand doses in a day, but that just might not be possible if we’re only getting a few hundred a week,” Jarvis said, who said Johnson County has some of the most efficient vaccinators in the state.

Jarvis encouraged local leaders to “manage their expectations” at a joint entities meeting of area local governments on Monday, and said that Johnson County Public Health plans to release more information as Feb. 1 approaches.

Jarvis said that the Feb. 1 date for the expansion to Phase 1B was set by the state and was intended as a benchmark for planning purposes.

“People that fall into that priority population are eligible beginning that date, but it will likely take most of that population several weeks to months [to get vaccinated],” Jarvis said. “There will not be thousands of doses coming into Johnson County on Feb. 1.”

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Johnson County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass said that people aren’t getting the information they need about how and when to get their shot because, she contended, the county’s public health website doesn’t have adequate information.

Jarvis said Johnson County Public Health is working on answering those questions, although they have do not have all the answers yet.

“We will be looking different than some other counties that have centralized sign up; I believe that’s what Polk is doing right now,” Jarvis said.

Linn County announced it would begin offering limited vaccine supplies to people aged 65 and older beginning Tuesday.  Residents must schedule an appointment, and residents who qualify will be contacted by their provider to schedule an appointment for the limited supply of vaccines.

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Supervisor Royceann Porter also brought up her own experiences with the community feeling confused about when they will get their vaccination, saying that a 75-year-old woman was told that it would be three to four months before she would be able to get vaccinated.

“We need to literally start letting people know, because people are thinking that this is going to be something that they’re able to get real soon. And it’s not,” Porter said.

Terry Donahue, Mayor of North Liberty, told the joint entities council that Phase 1B adds over 600,000 people to the vaccine program, and that Iowa is allocated only 19,500 to 20,000 doses per week.

“You can do the math. It will take a while.” Donahue said.