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Not All Iowa Counties Followed State Guidance to Expand Groups Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine


STORM LAKE, Iowa — Julie Sather has been hearing heartbreaking stories for months from county residents. Some have serious medical conditions. Some are caring for older family members in poor health. Others have already lost a family member to COVID-19. As Buena Vista’s Health & Home Care Administrator, she understands the importance of getting as many people vaccinated as fast as possible.

The virus hit Sather hard late last year. It took her more than two months to recover. A few weeks later, she started her new job as the top health official in the county. Now, she’s moving the county forward with the newest group of residents eligible to receive a vaccination, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s guidelines.

“One of the things that we hear loud and clear is there’s people out there that are 64 and younger that have these chronic health conditions and they haven’t been able haven’t been able to go anywhere,” Sather explained, “They haven’t been able to do anything. And not that the vaccine takes that away, but it’s one step closer for people to return to more of a normal life.”

The state health department reports that 37 residents of the county have died with the virus and 4,762 have tested positive for the virus since March of 2020.

Last week, the state directed 2,300 doses of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the county of nearly 20,000 residents to immunize workers at food, manufacturing and distribution plants. Sather can focus the county’s weekly allocation of 300 first and 300 second doses of the Moderna vaccine for previous eligible groups of Iowans — which included people in work in education, child care and law enforcement and those older than 65 — as well as the newest eligible group.

It’s a mix, she explains of the county’s priority. “There are some 70 year olds who are really healthy and there are some 60 year olds that unfortunately aren’t as healthy,” Sather said.

Sather said the county will host its first mass vaccination clinic this Thursday at the county fairgrounds. Law enforcement will help direct traffic for the anticipated 200 vaccinations of people, some of whom may drive from outside the community.

A spot check of Iowa counties showed different approaches to the state’s new guidance on vaccinations. This list only reflects county health efforts. Residents may also be able to get immunized through private pharmacies or by traveling to another county that has available supply.

These counties confirmed to WHO 13 that they plan to begin vaccinating Iowans under the age of 65 with medical conditions this week:

  • Adair
  • Boone
  • Buena Vista
  • Dallas
  • Madison
  • Warren

These counties will delay vaccinations to the new group until they have sufficient vaccine supply and have made enough progress immunizing previously eligible groups:

  • Grundy
  • Guthrie
  • Jasper
  • Marion
  • Marshall
  • Polk
  • Ringgold
  • Story


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