CORONAVIRUS

CDC selects Hy-Vee, independent pharmacies to give more COVID vaccines in Iowa

Pharmacist Matt Osterhaus is shown in May 2019 at Osterhaus Pharmacy in Maquoketa. The independent pharmacy is one of th
Pharmacist Matt Osterhaus is shown in May 2019 at Osterhaus Pharmacy in Maquoketa. The independent pharmacy is one of those partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to administer COVID-19 vaccines. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Another federal allocation of COVID-19 vaccines, expected to begin reaching the state this week, will offer Iowans another opportunity to access shots at certain retail pharmacies, officials say.

Select sites across Iowa will administer shots to Iowans aged 65 and older through the federal partnership that began this past week in some parts of the state.

The Federal Retail Pharmacy program is the collaboration between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and retail pharmacies in each state. This is in addition to the vaccine allocated to states.

In Iowa, CDC officials selected Hy-Vee and CPESN, a network of mostly independently owned pharmacies.

“It really acts like a bonus in addition to what (doses) the state is getting,” said Matt Osterhaus, owner of Osterhaus Pharmacy in Maquoketa, which is part of the CPESN Iowa network.

Others in the network include Clark’s Pharmacy in Cedar Rapids and Towncrest Pharmacy in Iowa City.

Hy-Vee declined to disclose how many of its locations would receive vaccine through the federal program, but spokeswoman Christina Gayman said the company is not vaccinating older Iowans in Cedar Rapids with the federal allocation “at this time.”

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Hy-Vee officials did note several of its pharmacy locations across the state, including those in Cedar Rapids, are vaccinating Iowans with shots allocated from the state.

Seventy-nine of the 120 pharmacies that are part of the CPESN — or Community Pharmacy Enhanced Service Network — are enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy program in Iowa.

Approximately 30 of those pharmacies received a small shipment of vaccines this week as part of a soft launch of the program in Iowa, Osterhaus said. The rollout will build to include all 79 pharmacies in the coming weeks.

“In this first launch, we’re not getting a ton of vaccines, so we’re not going to be able to vaccinate everyone in the county,” Osterhaus said.

Though these independent pharmacies will not be able to vaccinate as many Iowans as hospitals and other large providers, these facilities may be able to better reach older Iowans who are less comfortable at large-scale immunization sites.

Craig Clark, owner at Clark’s Pharmacy, said that may be particularly true for his store’s customers, who have little to no skills with a computer.

“We’ve had people call to put their name on our list, and they were almost in tears when we told them that we’ll help them through it and get them signed up online,” Clark said, who noted his store already has about 700 people on its waiting list.

Residents aged 65 and older interested in getting a vaccine at their local Hy-Vee or CPESN pharmacy are encouraged to check that pharmacy’s website or its social media pages to determine if and when they will be offering vaccines.

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Hy-Vee, for example, stated it does not have a locator map of available vaccine appointments at its stores at this time. Instead, individual stores will share that information, along with a link to schedule an appointment online, on that store’s Facebook page.

A locator map of all CPESN Iowa pharmacies is on the network’s website at collaboration.cpesn.com/finder. Not every pharmacy listed on that website will offer vaccines through this program.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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