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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

From the manufacturer to your arm: vaccine distribution process explained

Local health departments given instructions from the state to prioritize who, in each county, is eligible to get the vaccine first.

DES MOINES, Iowa — It's a long journey for the vaccine to get from the manufacturer to your arm, and it includes going through federal, state, and even county government agencies.

So from top to bottom, here's how it works:

The federal government has contracted with the vaccine companies Moderna and Pfizer to provide doses to he American public.

Those doses are distributed by population need to each particular state.

Then, states determine how many vaccines each county gets. At that point, it's up to each county to prioritize who gets the vaccine first.

As we've seen in Iowa, the rollout isn't the same county-to-county. For example, dentists and hygienists in Warren County were able to receive the vaccine in the last week of December, but in Polk and Linn County, those healthcare workers aren't eligible to sign up until the second full week of January.

RELATED: Iowa dentists, hygienists getting vaccinated as others wait for their turn

Local public health departments have a lot of power in administering the vaccine; they're also the ones in charge of messaing and notifying people when they're eligible to get the vaccine.

For now, only health care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities are eligible to get the vaccine. If there are leftover doses after those folks have been vaccinated, local public health leaders are in charge of sharing it with others, and they should be telling the state that they have extra doses. 

A local public health care worker tells our team they're behind in vaccinated everyone in the first group, and it could be until the summer or even late this year until the public is eligible to get the vaccine.

RELATED: University of Iowa enrolling 250 people in trial for COVID-19 vaccine made by Novavax