WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–Less than a week after the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for the single dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, Trinity Muscatine Public Health received its first 1,200 doses and began distributing them. Mar. 5, employees at West Liberty Foods participated in Muscatine County’s largest vaccination clinic to date, with Public Health bringing enough vaccines for up to 1,100 people. A tremendous undertaking, the clinic ran for over 12 hours, ensuring that workers in each shift received vaccines.
The day before the FDA granted emergency use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Iowa Department of Public Health had already begun sending out emails to counties to see which ones had the capacity to get the vaccine out to food manufacturing workers quickly. After assessing responses, the Iowa Department of Public Health elected to divide their first shipment of vaccines between several counties with large manufacturing and food processing operations. “There were only 17 counties selected, and the state realized we are a very manufacturing heavy county,” detailed Public Health Director Christy Roby Williams. “I am ecstatic,” she added. “I am very thankful that the state recognized that and provided vaccines.”
Though news about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the shipment itself came only this week, West Liberty Foods had already spent time figuring out how to best get vaccines to workers. “We’ve been planning for a few months,” said West Liberty Foods Associate General Counsel Brian Melhus. When the call finally came from Public Health, the company had the capacity to help them set up a clinic in only a few days.
As employees began to receive their vaccines in a tent set up in the parking lot outside West Liberty Foods’ plant, Melhus expressed his satisfaction with the ease and effectiveness of the event. “It has been a long wait, but we’re very excited to be part of the vaccine rollout and we’re very thankful for the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Muscatine County Department of Public Health.”
After receiving his own vaccine, West Liberty Foods’ President Brandon Achen shared Melhus’ enthusiasm. “We’ve very happy we could offer it to our frontline workers and team members,” he stated.
Along with providing vaccines to employees at West Liberty Foods, Public Health designated 100 Johnson & Johnson shots for employees of Hy-Line, a chick hatchery in Wilton, which they received Mar. 5 at 3 p.m. Once the West Liberty Foods clinic ended, Public Health planned to distribute any remaining doses to employees at the Heinz plant in Muscatine Monday, Mar. 8. Public Health also continues to organize second dose clinics for essential workers who received their initial Moderna vaccines earlier. Local doctors offices, Hy-Vee, and Wester Drug continue to provide vaccines to those age 65 and older.