Eligibility Expansion: Iowa COVID-19 vaccine providers continue vaccinations

Providers from pharmacies to health care systems are working to keep up with demand and play a critical role in the state’s vaccination efforts.
Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 7:37 PM CDT
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Iowa (KWQC) - Iowans age 16 and older are officially eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Individuals age 16 and up can receive the Pfizer vaccine and individuals age 18 and older can receive Moderna or Johnson and Johnson. Providers, from pharmacies to health care systems, are working to keep up with demand and play a critical role in the state’s vaccination efforts.

“As you see our supply of vaccine increase, it’s definitely been a great experience for everyone involved to be a part of vaccinating the community,” said Matt Behrens, the Vice President of Clinical Operations at UnityPoint

Pharmacies like Wester Drug ‚with locations in Wilton and Muscatine, are part of the Federal Pharmacy Partnership and help vaccinate people in the Muscatine County area. Michelle and Cory Garvin own the pharmacy and the duo said they’ve serviced more than 3,000 people in the Muscatine County area in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations so far.

“We’re an independent pharmacy so it’s nice that we can be able to move and mobilize so quickly,” Michelle said. “It’s usually the two of us going out and since our staff has graciously taken on the stuff at the pharmacy and taking care of patients and doing all that, it allows us to be freed up that we can turn on a dime and go out and, you know if we need to run a clinic or if we get extra doses, we can add more people into a clinic or we can go on public health calls”.

UnityPoint and their partners have given more than 10,000 doses, including 1st and second doses, on the Iowa side as of March 28th.

A mass clinic setting is familiar with Wester Drug as they’ve hosted vaccine clinics for the flu shots. For COVID-19 vaccinations, Cory said they’ve adapted to the efficiencies of a larger clinic.

“The biggest thing for us has been scaling it up to larger groups at a time,” he said, “we’ll have a patient come in and we’ll vaccinate one at a time and have a large room for them to sit in, but we’ve also developed a clinic setting where we have a large room...they’re able to distance and we’ve got a cart, and we just go patient to patient”.

Over at UnityPoint, Behrens said they’ve been working with the Scott County Health Department for their vaccination allocation.

“Genesis and UnityPoint clinic all kind of working together.  The vaccine is allocated based on the population of patients that both of us have in Scott County and we’re trying to kind of keep pace with each other on what age group, we’re in,” Behrens said.

“Our plan all along has always been to get vaccine to the oldest people first, with the highest risk score, our electronic medical record is called EPIC and it actually tracks what kind of comorbidities people have and it spits out a risk score and so we try to get vaccine to the highest risk. People that are the oldest first,” he said.

Behrens says they’re currently receiving roughly 1,100 doses of vaccine a week.

While eligibility has expanded, high-risk populations are still a priority.

“We still need to make sure we do our due diligence to hit those target populations,” Michelle said. “We’ve not wasted one dose yet, and we’re not going to at this point, so I think the expansion is great, but allocation and access is going to be an issue for a while, I think.”

As providers continue to educate people about the vaccine and get the growing number of individuals vaccinated, they’re looking forward to more supply.

“We want to get folks vaccinated. So looking forward to actually having more allocation, more inventory, so that we can do more,” Cory said.

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