Q: When can Iowans expect to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
A: My office is getting a lot of feedback from Iowans who are frustrated about how and when they can sign up to get a COVID-19 vaccine. By the first week of February, Iowa had administered 289,737 doses with many more scheduled in the coming days. The nationwide vaccine roll-out is a massive, complex operation with many moving parts to get vaccines into the arms of hundreds of millions Americans. Congress pushed tens of billions of dollars into the pipeline to help accelerate the distribution process. So far, the federal government has delivered more than 57 million doses to the states. Efforts to accelerate the rapid roll-out is hitting bumps along the road, including hesitancy among some people to get vaccinated. The biggest obstacle right now is that demand outstrips the supply. Recall when shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and lack of testing kits challenged communities for months as the novel coronavirus swept across the country. As vaccine supplies catch up with demand, Iowa has plans in place to open large-scale vaccination sites. Thanks in large part to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, the record-breaking discovery of vaccines for COVID-19 has delivered much-needed light at the end of the tunnel so we can put this pandemic behind us. As I’ve said since the virus first came to America, we’ll get through these challenging times, especially if we stick together and tackle problems together.
Iowa wrapped up its first phase of the vaccination roll-out, making doses available to health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. The second phase now underway opened up eligibility to Iowans age 65 or older, as well as teachers, school staff, child care workers and first responders. To find a vaccine provider most convenient for you or a loved one, visit the online dashboard (www.Coronavirus.Iowa.gov) of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Here, Iowans can find more than 700 vaccine providers listed by county and make an appointment online or by calling the clinic or pharmacy listed. In addition to demographic information, the website provides updates on the number of doses administered daily by county of residence and by vaccine provider. Iowa’s network of Area Agencies on Aging will be providing additional support services to seniors who may not have access to the internet to find a local provider or to make an appointment online for a vaccine. Older Iowans may contact the Iowa Department of Aging at (800) 532-3213 for assistance. I also encourage Iowans and their family members to be vigilant about fraud and scams. If somebody calls out of the blue about signing up for a COVID-19 shot and starts asking for personal information and insurance information, don’t provide it unless you can verify the call is legitimate. When in doubt, hang up the phone.
Q: What else will help get doses distributed and delivered faster?
A: The urgency to vaccinate people as quickly as possible can’t be overstated as the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States inches towards half a million fatalities, including more than 5,000 Iowans. For nearly a year, health care providers have put their lives on the line to save patients infected with the virus. Many K-12 and college students haven’t seen the inside of a classroom since last March. The prolonged fall-out on the economy will hobble recovery in the hardest-hit sectors, especially restaurants, entertainment and travel-related businesses. There’s some good news on the immediate horizon. A third vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson recently was submitted for FDA emergency use authorization. If approved, it would boost the vaccine supply and ease some of the distribution issues. This vaccine requires only one dose and doesn’t require storage at -94 degrees Fahrenheit like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as an example. What’s more, in mid-February a federal pharmacy program will expand the number of vaccine providers in local communities. More supplies, more providers and more locations will make it more convenient for local residents to get vaccinated. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also announced it will reimburse states who have activated National Guard units to carry out pandemic response and support since last year. I’ll continue closely monitoring the distribution of the vaccines and encourage Iowans to reach out to my office with questions and concerns. As Congress considers a sixth pandemic-relief package, I’m working to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used as intended and to get more help where it’s needed.