July 19, 2024


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Iowa COVID vaccine: What counts as underlying health condition?

Contact your county health department or visit a pharmacy’s website to book an appointment. Elder Iowans can call 2-1-1 starting March 9 to schedule an appointment.

IOWA, USA — Iowans 64 years old and under with underlying medical conditions can now get vaccinated.

The eligible group includes both those defined as being at a higher risk and those that might be at a higher risk.

“This announcement comes as several Iowa counties have reported they are nearing completion for vaccinating previous priority population groups,” the Iowa Department of Public Health said last week. “Some counties and vaccine providers will remain focused on previous priority populations until they are closer to completion.”

Local 5 is compiling all the information you need to know about who can get the vaccine and how to schedule an appointment.

Have a vaccine question you want answered? Text it to Local 5 at 515-457-1026 or send us an email.

List of qualifying conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following conditions as at an “increased risk” of contracting COVID-19:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

The following “might be at an increased risk”, according to the CDC, but will still be eligible for the vaccine in Iowa:

  • Asthma
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

Autism, however, is not included in the CDC recommendations. 

“We have actually seen research that has found that people on the Autism spectrum and people with intellectual disabilities are at heightened risk of contracting the virus and have an increased risk of dying from this virus,” said Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller with the Autism Society of Iowa 

“To the point that the fatality rate for individuals with intellectual disabilities is almost twice as high as individuals who do not have intellectual disabilities in the age group of 18 to 74.”

Iowans under 64 that do not have a medical condition and don’t fit into a Phase 1A or 1B tier still cannot get the vaccine.

Will vaccine providers have to verify a person’s medical condition(s)? 

There will be boxes on the vaccine provider’s website to confirm your medical condition is listed, but you don’t need to bring in a doctor’s note to your appointment.

For instance, Hy-Vee says it will update its website before Monday.

How do I book an appointment?

You should still go through your county health department or the Hy-Vee, Walgreens, CVS or Medicap websites.

Elder Iowans can call 2-1-1 starting Tuesday to schedule an appointment.

For a county-by-county map of vaccine providers, click here.

County health departments can still prioritize based on the Phase 1B tiers

Despite the IDPH announcement, county health departments will still remain in control of distributing and administering the vaccine.

The Polk County Health Department said Friday they will prioritize second doses Iowans 65+ and people in both Phase 1A and Phase 1B, Tier 1.

“As Polk County’s vaccine supply that is allocated by the state remains limited, Polk County will not be opening up additional eligibility until substantial progress is made on the current groups,” PCHD said in a statement. “If the supply of vaccine from the state increases, we will open to additional groups faster.”

There are three main factors as to why counties may not be able to vaccine the newest group of Iowans:

  • The state is still in a vaccine shortage — There are just not enough vaccines to go around for everyone who wants one
  • Appointments are booked out about a week or so in advance
  • Counties are still vaccinating those in Phase 1B, Tier 1

Mahaska County Public Health tells Local 5 they will not be prioritizing those with underlying conditions, instead continuing with the Phase 1B tiers. The county has implemented a waiting list for vaccine appointments.

Many counties are following along with the tiered approach, which includes first responders, school staff, individuals with disabilities living in home settings and certain essential workers.

“At this time we are still reviewing the information and discussing how this will look in Dallas County,” the Dallas County Health Department wrote on Facebook Friday.

Tama County said they “do not have a plan or process developed yet” for the expanded group of Iowans.

The Webster County Health Department urged people to “be understanding, be kind and please wait for your tier” as the scheduling starting Monday will include both Phase 1B individuals and those with underlying conditions.

RELATED: On-site COVID testing now available at Des Moines International Airport

RELATED: Multilingual call line set up in Polk County to help schedule vaccine appointments

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