MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health director says even with the promising news from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna about a COVID-19 vaccine that the public should not fall into a false sense of security and expect it to be available right away.
Brain Hanft says it’s likely vaccines won’t be ready for widespread use until next summer. “I am begging people, do not be complacent with the idea that a vaccine is going to be rolling in here and all of a sudden save the day. It’s unlikely that most people will even have the possibility to get that vaccine much before, and I’m a pessimist here, but I don’t see it really rolling out to the masses of our population until at least the summer months. Again, please, follow along. That vaccine is not going to be a saving grace for us until much later on into next year.”
Hanft says when the vaccine is available here in north-central Iowa, healthcare and long-term care workers will get the first doses. “Healthcare workers on the front line directly taking care of COVID patients, so emergency department staff, probably intensive care staff, COVID floors that are otherwise taking care of patients. In addition to that, one of the things that’s being worked out is how we’re going to get that vaccine to our long-term care workers and also to those people who live in long-term care facilities. Obviously they are at a much higher risk for complications from COVID, so they’ll be tiered rather high.”
One of the big issues of distributing the Pfizer vaccine will be that it needs to be stored at 80 below zero. Hanft says specialized freezers will have to be used to store the vaccine and then be placed on dry ice when local health departments or hospitals order it. “When we put in a request for vaccine to be delivered, that vaccine will be received by us on dry ice. We will then have a certain period of time by which we will need to replace that dry ice, because obviously it just dissolves. We have reached out to suppliers to be able to meet our needs for dry ice when that time comes, and also trying to facilitate that availability for others who might have a need.”
Hanft made his comments during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that you heard on AM-1300 KGLO. You can watch the press conference below.