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Linn County Public Health manager emails governor, IDPH over Johnson & Johnson vaccine allocations

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- A Linn County Public Health manager sent an emotional email to Governor Kim Reynolds' office and the Iowa Department of Health regarding the state's initial allocations of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Tricia Kitzmann, Community Health Division Manager with Linn County Public Health, wrote the letter arguing that the single-dose vaccinations should be going to more high-risk populations. Kitzmann says the quicker vaccination process is needed more for vulnerable individuals who may have difficulty scheduling multiple appointments.

The majority of our vulnerable population leaders have said it is vital to offer the one-dose series to several of these populations due to the loss in follow-up, fear of government, trauma, access barriers and/or transient nature of the population. Those that are homeless or that live in transitional housing are difficult to reach. It will be extremely difficult to find these individuals 3-4 weeks later for a second vaccination. 

Tricia Kitzmann, Community Health Division Manager with Linn County Public Health

Currently, the state is using its Johnson & Johnson doses mostly for essential employee vaccination clinics. Reynolds said last week that once those are done, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be made more widely available to the general public. Starting this week, a small allocation will be provided to several colleges and universities, with larger amounts of Johnson & Johnson vaccines going to universities in the following weeks.

Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health have said that it is important to get college students and staff vaccinated before returning home in the summer.

READ MORE: Starting today, all Iowans 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Kitzmann asked for more transparency from the Governor's Office and local control of the vaccines.

“By not listening to the voices of those most vulnerable and doing what we can to meet their needs, we are reinforcing messages that those with privilege, such as those with secure employment, reliable transportation, access to technology, and stable housing, come before them," Kitzmann wrote in the letter, "We are reinforcing the message that they cannot rely on or trust our Government or those with power to protect and serve their community.”

The Governor's Office responded to Kitzmann's letter, saying, "We are trying to vaccinate as many people as possible and work through priority groups while simultaneously dealing with limited supply. Iowa has one of the best vaccine administration rates in the country."

The IDPH addressed some of Kitzmann's complaints, saying in part:

"Vaccinating students before they return home reduces the risk of them spreading the virus to family members and ensures they have been vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall...The convenience and efficiency of achieving full vaccination with one dose is the reason Johnson & Johnson is being utilized for a portion of Iowa's larger employers."

Iowa Department of Public Health

The IDPH also said the resources to conduct two-dose clinics are considerable, and its plan has always been to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for those who may be more at-risk for scheduling and adhering to a second appointment.

You can read the full letter here.

Vaccine-Distribution-Concerns

The full response from IDPH is here:

The logistical simplicity of Johnson & Johnson is the reason it was allocated for colleges. Vaccinating students before they return home reduces the risk of them spreading the virus to family members, and ensures they have been vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall. Because the end of the semester is fast approaching for many colleges and universities, completing student vaccination with one dose is the best option. 

The convenience and efficiency of achieving full vaccination with one dose is the reason Johnson & Johnson is being utilized for a portion of Iowa’s larger employers. Resources from county health and other providers to implement two clinics are considerably increased when administering a two-dose vaccine, but some employers and local public health departments have opted for that approach.

Our plan has always been to use Johnson & Johnson vaccines for the populations who might be more at risk for scheduling or adhering to a second appointment. Many of the employers who have received Johnson & Johnson to date employ the populations referenced. Each of the 99 counties has received at least 100 doses of Johnson & Johnson in next week's allocation, and can be utilized to vaccinate harder to reach populations. IDPH works on a daily basis with local public health, vaccine providers and community organizations to balance the needs of all the state's vulnerable populations.  


Sarah Ekstrand
Public Information Officer, Iowa Department of Public Health
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