Monday, the Polk County Health Department is opening up COVID-19 vaccines to those 64 and younger with underlying health conditions.
These underlying health conditions include those with cancer, people who are pregnant, obese, have a heart condition, have diabetes, or people who smoke.
When determining if someone has an underlying condition, Polk County will be using an honor system.
“If you tell us you have an underlying health condition, we are going to believe that you have an underlying health condition,” Polk County’s Public Health Communications Officer, Nola Aigner Davis said. “But it’s also really important to think that there are people who are in dire need of this vaccine.”
The director of the Polk County Health Department said the department has recently received an increase in Pfizer vaccines, which allows the county to add more phases to its distribution.
All Polk County hospitals, clinics, and selected Medicap pharmacies will also continue to vaccinate phases 1A, 1B, tier 1, and those 65 and older.
Many are wondering why those with underlying conditions that are considered preventable diseases are a priority.
According to the CDC, those with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, poor lungs, or those with a compromised immune system, are six more times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 and 12 times more likely to die.
An infectious disease consultant at Mercy One Des Moines, Dr. Aneesa Afroze, explained that public health organizations are working to eliminate severe cases of COVID-19 before reaching the general public.
“We have to decrease hospitalization and deaths. Other than that, mild COVID will hopefully die down as influenza does every year. But severe illness is what we need to prevent deaths and really immunocompromised people need to be front of the line to get vaccinated,” Dr. Afroze said.
Next Monday, Polk County will start vaccinating farmworkers, frontline workers, and people with disabilities that are living at home, along with their direct staff.