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Local health departments under pressure as Iowa governor opens COVID-19 vaccine availability

Mills County COVID-19 hotline lighting up in as younger people with underlying conditions become eligible
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 12:33 PM CST
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MILLS COUNTY, Iowa (WOWT) - Gov. Kim Reynolds made another move Wednesday to make the COVID-19 vaccine more easily available, saying she has no problem with people crossing county lines to get the shot.

“Most of everybody is very, very anxious to get in, get the shot, get on the list — they have questions about if they qualify,” said Lina Goos, working the COVID-19 hotline at Mills County Public Health.

Their hotline has been lighting up since Iowa opened up vaccines last week to those ages 18 and 64 with underlying conditions.

“We are getting phone calls around the clock,” MCPH Agency Administrator Julie Lynes said, noting they are not ready to move onto that next phase of vaccinations as they continue to work through their list of those ages 65 and older.

“There are many counties, including Mills County, we have a significant elderly population, and getting 200 doses a week we are have not got through that list,” Lynes said.

Ready or not for those younger people, they are calling — and they want the vaccine.

“Thirty, 40, 50-year-olds are the ones,” Goos said. “That’s probably where we’re at right now, with a lot of underlying conditions.”

In Iowa, it takes nothing more than self-attesting to having a qualifying underlying condition to get the shot.

“We are being directed by the state to leave it up to the individual’s discretion. We go on their word, they qualify, and we schedule them for the vaccine,” Lynes said. “What’s happened is we’ve opened up huge demand. Our population knows they’re eligible and they want the vaccine the problem is we don’t have it.”

And Mills County isn’t ready to give up the doses they do have.

“We get a lot of phone calls from people in other counties and we just have to redirect them back to their public health departments,” Goos said.

The prospect of taking on even more people just isn’t realistic, officials said.

“If we opened it up — we already have way more demand than we have supply. We’re doing our best,” Lynes said.

MCPH is counting on area pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program to take on this next phase of younger people to get the vaccine.

“We’re encouraging them to reach out to our area pharmacies who do have vaccines coming in through the federal pharmacies and focusing on that population,” Lynes said.

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