Spirit Lake to be part of focus in COVID-19 vaccine promotion effort
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Spirit Lake is one of 17 Iowa communities where University of Iowa officials hope to promote COVID-19 vaccination as rates have slowed. The university announced the year-long project earlier this month. The project will focus on micropolitan communities — populations between 10,000 and 49,999 — across the state. Members of the university's Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, the Iowa Public Health Association and the Iowa Immunizes Coaltion will partner with local public health leaders, community organizations and other local groups to understand why individuals are not being vaccinated, test potential promotions and apply successful methods elsewhere in the state. The program is to be partially supported by a $500,000 grant from the Centers fo Disease Control.
While the research team will be examining various aspects of vaccine use in Iowa communities, they will not actually be administering vaccines themselves.
"There are plenty of folks locally that can administer the COVID-19 vaccination, including the local public health department, many pharmacies, and some health care provider offices," Natoshia Askelson, University of Iowa assistant professor of community and behavioral health, said. "We want to support their efforts and make sure more people are showing up to be vaccinated."
Local health officials reported Dickinson County's active cases of COVID-19 had dropped to five as of Friday. Local deaths related to the novel coronavirus are still at 44 — unchanged since mid-April — and approximately 2,644 individuals in the county are estimated to have recovered from the virus so far. But while the county's rolling, two-week rate of positive COVID-19 tests dropped by a tenth of a percent to 1.6 in the most recent weekly report, the seven-day rate jumped from 1.8 percent to 3.2 percent on Friday's chart. Regular COVID-19 statistics are no longer being reported at Spirit Lake Schools, Okoboji Schools and Harris-Lake Park Schools, which all dismissed for the year in May. Dickinson County Public Health reported no new vaccinations given since the June 7 report, though the numbers does not factor for other local pharmacies or providers who may administer vaccinations.
*Gaps in data from some districts have been extrapolated.
*Okoboji School District totals are shared with the public in ranges of five and have been plotted using their average.
*Harris-Lake Park Schools has not tracked cases or quarantines within the district since its May 10 report. Okoboji Schools' final report was posted May 21, and Spirit Lake Schools calculated its final statistics May 21 as well.
"COVID-19 is a preventable disease," Linda Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, said. "You prevent COVID-19 through vaccination. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones."
Askelson said the university's team has a history of working in Iowa's micropolitan communities, and vaccination rates in those communities has tended to be lower compared to the state's larger, urban areas. Askelson said the team has already begun collecting data in an effort to understand potential barriers to vaccination at the local level, and they are currently reaching out to community leaders in Dickinson County. Elizabeth Faber, an Iowa Immunizes consultant, said those first pieces of information will be gathered through guided discussions with local public health agencies and other community partners.
"These agencies and individuals know their community well and can provide valuable insight," she said.
The team plans to start testing their promotional efforts later this summer, but factors will likely vary some from one community to the next.
"There will be similarities in the reasons why people have not yet been vaccinated, but there are likely community factors that are important to suss out," Tucker Reinders said. "That is why we are grateful for the opportunity to first listen to our local public health leaders, recognize the great work they are doing and assist them in ways most meaningful to their communities."
She went on to say the team hopes to develop messages which answer local questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as help them understand the potential severity of the respiratory disease and the role of vaccination in ending the pandemic. Askelson said some strategies that have been successful in increasing flu and HPV vaccinations might be adapted for the upcoming project.
"We will be pulling from what we know and are currently learning from these efforts to identify interventions and strategies that best meet the needs of local communities," she said. "One of the things public health has a lot of experience doing is assessing community needs and matching those with appropriate interventions."
Other Iowa communities chosen for the project include Spencer, Storm Lake, Carroll, Boone, Fort Dodge, Newton, Marshalltown, Oskaloosa, Pella, Burlington, Keokuk, Muscatine, Fairfield, Ottumwa, Mason City and Clinton.