COVID-19 Vaccinations

Current Status of COVID-19 Vaccinations in Dubuque County

The United States is in the early stages of the most complicated vaccination campaign in our nation’s history. 

Vaccines are not yet available for the general public. The Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team is following federal and state recommendations for COVID-19 vaccinations. Iowa is currently in Phase 1A.

Phase 1A:  Healthcare Providers and Long-Term Care Residents

Phase 1A vaccinations of healthcare providers and long-term care residents and staff are underway in Dubuque County. Dubuque County’s healthcare providers serve residents in the entire tri-state area with three hospitals, dozens of clinics, and long-term care centers. This means there are nearly 5,000 healthcare providers to be vaccinated in this first round of vaccinations. It's anticipated Phase 1A vaccinations will be completed in late January.

Phase 1B: All Iowans Age 65 and Over and Other High-Risk Populations

Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines for Phase 1B focus on all Iowans who are age 65 and over and other high-risk populations who are most vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19 or high-risk for illness as the result of a COVID-19 infection. The Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team is working with local partners to finalize plans to begin Phase 1B vaccinations by Feb. 1. 

The vaccine remains in short supply. This means not everyone in Phase 1B will be able to get the vaccine right away. To help balance vaccine supply with the Phase 1B demands, IDPH has implemented a tiered prioritization. IDPH remains in close contact with federal partners to communicate Iowa’s need for additional vaccines.

Tier 1

  • First Responders (e.g., firefighters, police officers, and child welfare social workers)
  • PK-12 staff, early childhood education, childcare workers

Tier 2

  • Frontline essential workers in food, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors who live or work in non-social distanced settings
  • Individuals with disabilities living in home settings and their direct care staff

Tier 3

  • Staff and individuals living in congregate settings not covered by a previous phase or tier (does not include college dormitories)
  • Government officials, to ensure continuity of government including staff, engaged in state business at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session

Tier 4

  • Inspectors responsible for hospital, long-term care, and child safety

Tier 5

  • Correctional facility staff and individuals incarcerated

The Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team (IMT) is working with local points of dispensing sites (PODS) who will vaccinate people in Phase 1B. These sites are expected to include healthcare providers, pharmacies, clinics, and other community locations. Some essential workers may be vaccinated at their place of employment.

As soon as vaccination locations and details are available, they will be shared with the public through local media, and on the Dubuque County Health Department’s website (, social media, and other channels. 

Please do not call healthcare providers and public health at this time. Vaccination waiting lists are NOT being created. For questions or more information about vaccinations, please call the Dubuque Visiting Nurse Association at 563.556.6200.

Planning for Future Phases

To date, 58 local providers have indicated their interest in administering vaccines including eight pharmacies and their multiple sites. The Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team (IMT) will determine the allocations to the approved vaccine providers as they receive weekly vaccine allocations.

As vaccines become more available and a predictable supply chain is evident, a community-based vaccination site(s) will be established. This location will provide vaccines for those who are eligible. The vaccination site(s) will:

  • Be easily accessible for Dubuque County residents
  • Be accessible via public transportation (i.e. bus lines)
  • Meet all necessary ADA requirements and public health measures to assure safety during the vaccination process
  • Be planned with input from vaccine providers

The location of the community-based vaccination site(s) and appointment sign up information will be widely shared with the public. The IMT will require vaccinations by appointment while the vaccine supply is limited.

Iowa's Immunization Registry Information System 

Iowa's Immunization Registry Information System (IRIS) is being used to manage:

  • Vaccine allocations to counties from IDPH
  • Dubuque County’s allocation of vaccine to Dubuque vaccine providers
  • Documentation of vaccine’s administered to individuals
  • Documentation of transfers of vaccine between vaccine providers
  • Information regarding vaccine providers’ vaccine inventory

The IMT will collect information from designated priority groups to facilitate the planning and scheduling of vaccinations. This includes gathering information from worksites, schools, and other organizations related to the priority groups. This allows for priority groups to be in the IRIS cue so the scheduling of vaccinations can be initiated quickly once adequate supplies are allocated and available, or in the event additional vaccines become available.

Understanding COVID-19 Vaccines

The first two COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the United States are messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, vaccines. Scientists have been studying mRNA and how it works in the body for many years. 

Instead of using a weakened or dead version of the COVID-19 virus, they use a small strip of genetic code — the mRNA. This code teaches the body to make the spike protein that’s found on the COVID-19 virus. Once the immune system recognizes the spike protein, it creates antibodies — which are proteins that fight infections. These antibodies will stay in your body, and if the COVID-19 virus enters your body, the antibodies will fight it.

Ensuring the Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines

The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have gone through the same rigorous safety assessment as all vaccines before they were authorized for use in the United States. This includes large clinical trials where scientists tested the vaccines in thousands of volunteers to make sure they are safe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviews all safety data from clinical trials to determine if a vaccine should be approved and authorized for emergency use. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts, then reviews all safety data before making recommendations about how to use vaccines.

Getting Vaccinated

The two authorized COVID-19 vaccines require two shots. The first dose starts building protection against COVID-19 by helping the immune system recognize the virus. The second dose makes the immune system’s response stronger. If people don’t get the second dose, the vaccine won’t be as effective.

Most people don’t have serious side effects after they get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Like with many other vaccines, people may notice that their arm is red, sore, or warm to the touch. Many people also get headaches, have a fever, or feel tired or achy for a day or 2 after getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. These are all signs that your body is building up protection — which means the vaccine is working.

Additional Information and Resources

8 Things to Know about the U.S. COVID-19 Vaccination Program

Now that there are authorized and recommended vaccines to prevent COVID-19 in the United States, here are 8 things you need to know about the new COVID-19 Vaccination Program and COVID-19 vaccines.

CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Iowa Department of Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Read through answers from healthcare providers on vaccine FAQs.

Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

We understand that some people may be concerned about getting vaccinated now that COVID-19 vaccines are available in the United States. While more COVID-19 vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, routine processes and procedures remain in place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorized or approved for use. Safety is a top priority, and there are many reasons to get vaccinated.

When Vaccine is Limited, Who Gets Vaccinated First?

Because the supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is expected to be limited at first, CDC is providing recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. CDC’s recommendations are based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts.

Ensuring COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines whether to approve a vaccine or authorize a vaccine for emergency use, clinical trials are conducted to determine how well it works. This is known as effectiveness. After FDA approves a vaccine or authorizes a vaccine for emergency use, it continues to be studied to determine how well it works under real-world conditions. CDC and other federal partners will be assessing COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness under real-world conditions.

Related Video

This Jan. 14, 2021, video update from the Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team includes a progress update on vaccinations in Dubuque County and an explanation of vaccine prioritization.