COVID vaccine distributed to area health care workers

Angie Talken
Linn County Leader

More than 90 area health care professionals received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 6.

According to Karla Clubine, nurse practitioner, director of operations for Pershing Health System, in collaboration with Boone Hospital from Columbia area health care employees from Pershing, the Linn County Health Center and other area medical offices were able to receive the vaccine, if they chose.

Clubine said that while several different medical facilities have signed up to be a vaccination location once the vaccine is available, due to regulations from Governor Mike Parson no vaccines were distributed to counties due to the vaccines being designated to long-term medical facilities. The collaboration with Boone Hospital provided the 90 vaccines for 1A designated persons.

Pershing Health Center’s CEO Phil Hamilton explained the collaboration between the two hospitals in a quote on social media on Jan. 6. 

“As the public is aware, I am sure, many rural community hospitals have not had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Doses that we were told would be available for rural facilities have not been provided by the State and no date has been given when it will be available. What this has meant to Pershing is that our front-line personnel would go unprotected by the vaccine for an indefinite period of time. A couple of weeks ago, Boone Hospital Center, our affiliate hospital in Columbia, contacted us and offered to share their vaccine supply with our staff who have direct or indirect patient contact. Today, (Jan. 6) Boone provided their own staff and vaccine to nearly 100 of our employees. This effort by Boone will expedite the protection that our health care workers needed to continue to provide care to the communities we serve. Essentially, this clinic will save lives among our staff and within the general population of our service area. We are most grateful to Boone Hospital Center for being more than a friend in this pandemic situation,” Hamilton, said.

Crews from Boone Hospital will return to Pershing on Jan. 27 to administer the second dose of the vaccine.

Linn County Health Center Director Krista Neblock said several long-term care facilities were able to vaccinate their residents and employees due to an agreement with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to secure the vaccine. 

Neblock said that her office has ordered the vaccine from the state, but are still unsure when they will be able to get the vaccine and state officials she suggested might have a time frame did not return calls to the Linn County Leader by press time.

“I know the desire is there for the vaccine and we want to get the vaccine out to our county as soon as we can and are working on that,” Neblock said. “As soon as we know the information and are able to release it to the public we will be doing so.”

Once the state says vaccines can be distributed to those in tier 1B, those with the vaccine can begin doing so. Clubine said any person who falls into the 1A classification can be vaccinated at any time.

“We cannot move forward on the vaccination tier, but we can vaccinate those whose original group has already been approved, even as we move on to other groups,” she said noting there are no talks of Pershing Health  System requiring its employees to get vaccinated.

Neblock said those designated in Tier 1B will be the next approved group, which includes those aged 18-64 or are considered high risk, those over 65 years of age, first responders and critical infrastructure workers.

Neblock said her office continues to make contingency plans for the vaccination clinics, as they are unsure of which brand of vaccine -  Pfizer or Moderna - the center will receive and how the timing of the clinics will work. Pfizer vaccinations are scheduled to be given 21 days apart and Moderna 28 days, Clubine noted.

Cases of COVID continue to rise in Linn County.

“Part of it is is what is expected for after holidays we have seen an influx in cases as we went into the new year,” Neblock said. “We expect that after people getting together over the holidays.”

Neblock said that many people seem to be facing COVID fatigue after dealing with the restrictions, but everyone should continue to be diligent.

“I know people are really tired of staying away from family members -  we have been doing this now for almost a year so there is fatigue trying o keep up with all of the restrictions,” she said. “ We are at a 26.5% positivity rate for our county, which still leaves us at a higher level of safety precautions. Businesses still should be allowing for social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands, not getting together with people from your household - no large gatherings.”