CORONAVIRUS

Gov. Kim Reynolds: Iowa needs to 'do better' getting vaccine in arms

New call center, website will help Iowans set up appointments

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds talks at a Thursday news conference about improving the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Iowa, now amo
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds talks at a Thursday news conference about improving the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Iowa, now among the nation’s slowest states in administering the two-shot series. Reynolds said she’s also working to get more vaccine doses delivered to the state. (Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register via AP)

JOHNSTON — Iowa continues to have the third-worst vaccination rate per capita in the nation as the state reached a milestone Thursday of more than 5,000 people killed by the virus.

Speaking at a news conference at Iowa PBS, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa has been improving its vaccination efforts, which she argued have been slowed in part by lack of available vaccine.

That uncertainty has made counties and health care providers hesitant to set up appointments, fearing they won’t have the vaccine available and be forced to cancel appointments, she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 6,315 people per 100,000 in Iowa have received the first vaccine dose. That is worse than all other states except Idaho and Missouri.

States leading in vaccinations have well over 9,000 to 10,000 people per 100,000 given the first dose.

More than 74,000 Iowans have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Another 140,000 have received the first dose.

Reynolds said her administration is working with county officials and other health care providers to determine barriers to getting vaccine delivered.

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Iowa has received 446,825 doses of vaccine and has administered 266,777 doses, or just under 60 percent of the vaccines received, the CDC reported Thursday. The state has the sixth-lowest rate of administered vaccine per capita in the nation.

“We’re averaging about 60 percent in getting the vaccines administered, and that’s not where we need to be,” Reynolds said. “We want to do better. We know we can do better.”

Part of the issue remains that Iowa is receiving fewer vaccine doses per capita than other states, Reynolds said.

“We’ll continue to improve the processes to make sure that we’re getting vaccines administered in a timely manner,” the governor said.

Call center, website

Reynolds said the state also is quickly creating a website and call center for information on vaccine distribution.

The system will provide information about vaccine availability, determine a caller’s eligibility and provide callers with information about where and how to set up an appointment to receive the vaccine.

Reynolds said the system ideally would create a “one-stop shop” where Iowans could be matched with vaccine providers near them.

Proposals from potential vendors are due Friday.

“There’s still a lot to be done to make this possible, but the first step begins today,” Reynolds said. “In the meantime, please be patient. I know it’s not easy. Vaccine production will increase, and we’ll begin to receive more doses. But it’s still going to take some time.”

The state also is partnering with Iowa’s six area agencies on aging to assist individuals 65 years of age and older, the population that this week became eligible to receive the vaccine.

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Reynolds said the agencies will answer senior Iowans’ questions, assist with scheduling vaccination appointments and coordinate transportation, if needed.

State officials said anyone with questions about their vaccination should first contact their health care provider, using the provider’s website if possible.

“I’m also aware that many Iowans are frustrated by the scheduling process and struggling to make an appointment,” Reynolds said. “I understand how disappointing it is when you’re finally eligible to get the vaccine and you can’t get through to schedule an appointment. But I’m asking Iowans to please keep in mind that while vaccine supply is limited, appointments will also be limited.”

Erin Murphy of the Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.

vaccine info

• Iowans over age 65 who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine should first check with their health care provider through the providers’ website or MyChart online portal, if possible.

• Older Iowans in Eastern Iowa — in Linn, Johnson, Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Jones and Washington counties — can call the Heritage Area Agency on Aging in Cedar Rapids, (319) 398-5559 or 1- (800) 332-5934 for information. The agency will answer questions and assist with vaccine appointments and transportation.

• The state soon expects to have a call center and website developed to assist Iowans in scheduling an appointment for the vaccine.

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