Far fewer Dubuque County residents ages 16 to 29 have been vaccinated against COVID-19 than older age groups, county health officials said this week.

Health officials told the Dubuque County Board of Health that 6,407 residents in that age group were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 18,819 county residents are in that age group, meaning 34% are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the vaccination rate among Dubuque County residents age 65 and older is more than 90%. Countywide, more than 48,000 residents have been fully vaccinated, nearly half of the population.

Local officials said they are particularly concerned about the vaccination rate among 16- to 29-year-olds.

“They’re the group with the highest positive tests, but also the group with the lowest completed vaccinations,” said Samantha Kloft, assistant health director of the Dubuque County Health Department. “That might be a little anecdotal, but I think it’s important for us as (the Dubuque County COVID-19 Incident Management Team) to look at that age group as one we need to be targeting in our vaccine education and promotion.”

Lower vaccination rates among people in this age group likely increase the risk of them spreading the virus, especially given their general behavior, Mary Rose Corrigan, City of Dubuque public health specialist, said following the meeting.

“This is the demographic who is out in the community a lot, through work or recreational activities,” she said.

That could impact people in this age group who are not vaccinated both socially and economically, Corrigan said.

“As we move forward with this pandemic and so much of our community is shifting back into regular activities, they may be left out if they get sick,” she said. “And some of the benefits of being ill with COVID and not being able to work (such as expanded unemployment in Iowa) have dried up.”

Members of the incident management team are trying to put vaccination clinics in places they think they can access this age group, but that has proven to be tricky, said Patrice Lambert, executive director of the county health department.

“There is a job fair coming up where Stacey (Killian, administrator of the Visiting Nurse Association) and her staff will be present with vaccinations,” Lambert said. “Food Truck Friday (in Dubuque) — that is usually a younger population. But, especially the 21 to 29, they’re our somewhat silent group. We’re having trouble finding events that are not alcoholic.”

Lambert said the incident management team will continue focusing on outreach to this population throughout the summer.

According to county and Census Bureau data, 52% of residents 30 to 58 years old are fully vaccinated, as are 66% of residents 50 to 64 years old.

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