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Moving forward

Ages eligible for Phase 1B of vaccinations expanded

-Submitted photo
Dr. Sharmini Suriar receives a COVID-19 vaccine in December. The vaccination effort in Webster County should be able to move into Phase 1B around Feb. 1.

Changes announced by Gov. Kim Reynolds Thursday morning mean that 6,587 Webster County residents 65 and older would fit into the new Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations, the Webster County Health Department said in a news release Thursday.

Webster County is completing Phase 1A of vaccinations. The Iowa Department of Public Health hopes that county health departments will be able to move into Phase 1B around Feb. 1, WCPH said in a statement Wednesday.

“As Gov. Reynolds stated (Thursday), Iowa remains in a vaccine shortage. Webster County Health Department is utilizing our vaccine allotments as soon as we receive it.” said Kari Prescott, director of WCPH. “This is going to take time. We are grateful that so many are excited and wanting to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but please know that it’s going to take time because the vaccine itself is in very short supply.”

Previously, state health officials had planned to limit availability in Phase 1B to people 75 and older.

“We do not have the vaccines yet,” Prescott said. “When we do receive the vaccines, we promise to let the Webster County community know immediately.”

Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout will be staggered through four tiers prioritizing various populations in the state, according to information from the Iowa Department of Public Health. Those aged 65 and older will be eligible for the vaccine in any tier of Phase 1B.

The first tier will prioritize first responders and child welfare social workers, as well as PK-12 school staff, early childhood education and childcare workers. The second tier will prioritize food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing workers who work or live in congregate settings that don’t allow for social distancing, in addition to those with disabilities living in home settings and their care staff.

The third tier will prioritize those living in other congregate settings and staff members working in them, excluding college dormitories. Government officials engaged in business at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session will also be eligible for Tier 3 to ensure continuity of government.

Tier 4 will reach inspectors responsible for hospitals, long-term care homes and child safety. Tier 5 includes correctional facility staff and incarcerated individuals.

“This process is just going to take time,” Reynolds said Thursday. “Each subsequent tier will be phased in as soon as possible, according to the availability of the vaccines.”

Reynolds said that while making those 65 and older eligible in Phase 1B is “an important step forward,,” the change announced “does not mean that we can open vaccination up to all Iowans, or even that the vaccine will be immediately available to all of the groups that have been prioritized.”

WCPH is planning for upcoming mass vaccination clinics to vaccinate those who fit into the tiers of Phase 1B. Once the vaccine is allotted to WCPH, they will notify residents via social media, local media outlets, Webster County’s website and many local partners.

“Once we are aware of the amount of vaccines assigned to our county we will provide information on how to schedule appointments and where clinics will be located,” Prescott said. “We will have a designated telephone line and online options. Information will be provided to the community as quickly as we are notified.”

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