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Iowa prepares for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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(KWWL) -- It's likely that the first COVID-19 vaccines could be distributed within the next few weeks.

While not set in stone, health experts predict that frontline, healthcare workers will be the first to be immunized for the virus. A decision is likely to come mid December for emergency use authorization by the FDA.

As of Monday, both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted for FDA approval.

At University of Iowa Healthcare, which has roughly 18,000 employees that would need the vaccine, predicts it would take 4 weeks or more to fully vaccinate its staff.

"We understand there might be a little bit more of a reaction to this vaccine than other vaccines," said Dr. Michael Brownlee, UIHC's Chief Pharmacy Officer. "We're being careful that we spread this out initially so that we don't end up inadvertently having someone not be at work the next day because they don't feel well."

UIHC already has some experience with administering the vaccine, having participated in the clinical trial for Pfizer's vaccine.

"We'll be ready any hour of the day to be able to put that vaccine in those ultra cold freezers we purchased," Dr. Brownlee said.

Pfizer's vaccine is particularly fragile, having to reportedly be held at temperatures common to Antarctica which is why UIHC purchased the necessary storage equipment months ago. Many local hospitals also anticipated this need.

"We are aware that Unity Point, Mercy One, and UNI have that capacity," said Black Hawk County Public Health Director Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye.

Egbuonye added that some of the smaller clinics in the area are still ironing out the details of their distribution plans.

To her, the role of public health is one centered around educating the public.

"Our responsibility in public health is to be that bridge to unite people and to really engage with the community, so that we hear their concerns and that we're able to also utilize that information," Egbuonye said.

The Black Hawk County Public Health Department expects to release a survey in the coming days to gauge citizens feelings on a COVID-19 vaccine. Egbuonye hopes to utilize the public's responses to know what questions are the most important.

Black Hawk County's COVID-19 Dashboard can be found here.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has an extensive amount of information regarding the vaccine and it's place within Iowa. Read that information here.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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