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Iowa introduces efforts to assist with vaccine questions
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Iowa introduces efforts to assist with vaccine questions

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JOHNSTON — A new state website with COVID-19 vaccine information will launch soon, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday, but the site will not be capable of providing an avenue for Iowans to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Reynolds also announced Thursday during her weekly press conference at Iowa PBS studios that the state is creating a call center program to help older Iowans who need assistance scheduling a vaccine appointment.

Reynolds said the state is creating vaccine navigators to assist older Iowans who do not have access to a computer or the internet, or are not proficient at using either. Those navigators will be available through the state’s 211 call center, and they will be able to help older Iowans schedule vaccine appointments.

Reynolds said she expects the vaccine navigators to be ready to field calls via 211 starting the week of March 8.

The news was welcomed by the Iowa chapter of AARP. State director Brad Anderson, in a statement, called the navigators “a terrific step forward.”

“We thank Gov. Reynolds for listening to the concerns of older Iowans and taking action to streamline the process for those with or without a computer,” Anderson said in the statement. “We will continue to listen and learn from older Iowans across the state as this new system is being implemented, and will work with public health officials to help spread the word.”

The new website, vaccinate.iowa.gov, will launch today, Reynolds said. It will contain information about what groups of Iowans are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, frequently asked questions about the vaccine, and a locator to help Iowans find local health care providers.

Iowans will not be able to schedule a vaccination appointment through the site. Iowans with questions about how to schedule an appointment should continue to reach out to their health care provider or local public health department.

“(The new website) will help you better understand and navigate the process and hopefully answer some of those frequently asked questions,” Reynolds said.

More than 300,000 Iowans have received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 155,000 have received a second dose and are fully vaccinated, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data available at coronavirus.iowa.gov.

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In Pottawattamie County, 7,254 residents have received the first dose and 3,188 have received the second dose, according to state data. Providers in the county have administered 10,148 first doses and 6,442 second doses.

The third currently-scheduled vaccine clinic for county residents 65 and older will be held today. Pottawattamie County Public Health Director Matt Wyant said another will be held next week, with an announcement on the date and a reopening of the registration website, pottcounty-ia.gov/vaccinate, expected early next week. Appointments for today’s clinic are full.

Around 1,100 first doses will be administered this week and next week to residents 65 and older. The county also continues to give second doses to school employees and law enforcement officials.

Wyant said the clinics have gone well and he’s optimistic about news of forthcoming additional vaccine availability.

“I think we’ve shown our effort is effective. We’ll continue going on it as soon as we get vaccine,” he said.

The county had 1,553 active cases of COVID-19 as of 3 p.m. Thursday, with 10,717 total cases and 9,164 recoveries. There have been 101,997 tests in the county.

An additional COVID-19 death was reported between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon, bringing the county’s total during the pandemic to 141.

Compared to other states’ distribution rates per population, Iowa is above average for the rate of residents receiving at least one dose, but among the states with the lowest rate of residents receiving two doses, according to federal data.

Reynolds said she expects the state next week to receive its first doses of the latest COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson. That vaccine, which is on track for federal approval, requires just one dose unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two doses taken three to four weeks apart. The governor said the state’s initial allotment of the new vaccine will exceed 25,000. She also said the federal government plans to once again boost weekly vaccine allocations to states, and that in the near future it hopes to project future dose allocations two or three months in advance.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that the progress were seeing now will only continue,” Reynolds said, expressing her gratitude to the federal government for its role in the vaccine rollout. “The progress we’ve made over the last several weeks is pushing us toward a turning point in our COVID recovery, and I’m committed to continuing this forward momentum in Iowa.”

— Nonpareil News Editor Mike Brownlee contributed to this report.

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