The race to get more Iowans vaccinated continues as the Webster County Health Department announced on Wednesday that it received 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the state health department.
Two-hundred of those doses have been pulled to be used for teachers and first responders, according to Kelli Bloomquist, public information officer.
The remaining 400 doses were allocated for residents age 65 and over.
The 400 doses and corresponding appointments were filled through online scheduling and phone calls in just four minutes on Wednesday.
Bloomquist said appointments in other counties have also filled up fast.
Calhoun County’s appointments were booked in under five minutes, she said.
Bloomquist said Webster County is expected to receive 600 doses per week through February.
“As soon as we are aware of an incoming allocation, we will open up appointments to residents,” she said.
Iowa has a mandate which requires health departments to get vaccine out the door almost immediately, ensuring that it is not sitting on a shelf. If a department doesn’t hit the 80% threshold, they are penalized and they will not receive an allocation the following week.
“We will not hold on to vaccine so that we can stockpile and have a larger quantity available for a mass clinic,” Bloomquist said. “Doing so is not being a good steward of the vaccine and jeopardizes the county’s future allocations.”
WCHD is working with home health agencies to compile a list of homebound individuals who need to be vaccinated.
The phase and tier criteria is not set by Webster County Health Department. It is set at the state and federal level, but local health departments are required to follow it.
“We understand that people are frustrated and want to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Bloomquist said. “Webster County has nearly 10,000 people eligible in this current phase and we only had 400 doses available this week. Thousands of people logged on to the county’s website and called in to our scheduling hotline at the same time. Grandchildren were booking appointments for their grandparents and children booking for elderly parents. The schedule was booked almost immediately.”
Bloomquist said there’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes that people may not realize.
“Clinic and vaccine logistics and guidance that we are required to follow from the state and from the CDC,” she said. “It isn’t as simple as just making a list. How would this be vetted per phase and tier and also to ensure that people are being truthful so as not to jump in line? Where would the manpower come from? None of this is simple. We understand that some feel that this isn’t the best option either, I get it. We’re working on it. We are the only county in our region that offers both telephone and online booking. We’re discussing processes with other counties. There just isn’t enough vaccine for everyone who want it and we are doing the best that we can with the vaccine that we have been given. This is going to take time and for people to be patient and respectful to one another.”