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On the way

COVID-19 vaccine may arrive soon for health care workers, nursing homes

-Submitted photo Jeff Lachelt, Trinity Inpatient Pharmacy Manager, shows the ultra-cold storage unit at UnityPoint Health - Trinity Regional Medical Center. The COVID-19 vaccines will be stored in there when they arrive sometime next week.  

Health care workers in Webster County could receive COVID-19 vaccinations as early as next week, according to a local physician.

Dr. Mike Willerth, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge, said hospital leaders have been working closely with state and local public health departments in regards to the vaccine.

“We want to ensure that once the COVID-19 vaccine is authorized or approved for clinical use, it is offered to as many of our health care workers as possible, as quickly as possible,” Willerth said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is produced by Pfizer Inc., headquartered in New York City, and its German partner BioNTech.

On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers recommended the agency grant emergency use authorization to the vaccine.

Willerth said those vaccines could be administered as early as next week.

“UnityPoint Health prioritizes team members with the highest COVID-19 exposure risk to be offered the first available doses of vaccine,” Willerth said. “UnityPoint Health’s goal is to vaccinate as many team members as possible, as quickly as possible.”

The vaccine will not yet be available to the general public.

According to Tricia Nichols, a registered nurse with Webster County Public Health, the health department determines who is vaccinated according to the priority population matrix provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Iowa Department of Public Health.

“Our initial focus is our health care providers,” Nichols said.

Willerth added, “Supplies will increase over time, and the vaccine should be available to the general public later in 2021. However, a COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed.”

Clinical trials so far on the Pfizer vaccine show limited side effects. Most common side effects include: fatigue, reactions at the point of injection on the body, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever.

Webster County Public Health will work directly with its priority populations like physician offices, hospitals and nursing homes to administer the vaccine. Once the vaccine becomes available to the public at large, WCPH will hold drive-thru vaccine clinics similar to its flu shot clinics.

“We will also coordinate with our community partners to ensure our entire Webster County population is reached,” Nichols said.

As of now, the vaccine will only be available through Webster County Public Health, but that is likely to change at some point in the future, said Kelli Bloomquist, the agency’s public information officer.

In some more rural or remote areas, storing some of the vaccines may prove difficult as the vaccine produced by Pfizer needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. However, that isn’t likely to be a problem in Webster County.

“Not all vaccine is stored at the ultra-cold temperatures,” Nichols explained. “If necessary, there is ultra-cold storage available to us within the county.”

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