Reynolds says CVS, Walgreens not moving fast enough to immunize nursing homes

By: - January 7, 2021 1:11 pm

Iowa’s effort to increase vaccinations for COVID-19 appears to have stalled, with 51% of the population fully vaccinated. (Photo by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she’s “not happy” with the speed of COVID-19 immunizations in the state’s long-term care facilities.

During a meeting with reporters on Thursday, she acknowledged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s  partnership with CVS and Walgreens to immunize Iowans in nursing homes isn’t moving quickly enough. Reynolds said she is participating in a call with the CEOs of Walgreens and CVS to discuss it on Thursday.

Iowa has not released data showing how many nursing facilities have received vaccinations to date.

The CDC reported on Tuesday that 120,175 doses have been delivered to the state, and 60,137 Iowans have received the first round of vaccine. “It’s not being allocated in a manner that we were hoping it would be,” Reynolds said.

As states have raced to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, Iowa’s local pharmacists have warned that CVS and Walgreens did not have the staffing capabilities to handle immunizing Iowa’s nearly 700 long-term-care facilities by themselves. Those efforts were launched on Dec. 28.

In an interview, Danielle Ottoson, district leader for CVS Health, said the company’s goal is to finish the first round of vaccinations within 21 days in Iowa. As of December, CVS had 95 pharmacists and a total of 881 employees in the state.

While there isn’t a prioritization of who goes first, vaccination sites are selected based on “geographic location” and pharmacist and technician availability, Ottoson said.

CVS is planning to make a total of three site visits to each care facility, contrary to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s plan for six visits to ensure that all staff on all shifts are reached.

CVS is planning on visiting 486 nursing homes and vaccinating roughly 50,000 residents and staff.

Walgreens, declined to share state-specific hiring numbers, but in a written statement said the company is hiring 8,000 to 9,000 health care providers nationally and offering sign-on bonuses between $500 to $30,000 for eligible roles.

Legislative leaders won’t require masks

Republican legislative leaders defended new Statehouse rules that do not require masks or reporting of positive tests. Both House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said they can’t tell fellow lawmakers what to do, or enforce those types of rules.

“My plan is to wear a mask when I can’t socially distance, unless I’m in the chair,” Grassley said. “I’ll be recommending that of our caucus. We have no way of enforcing that even if we were to say everyone in the caucus has to wear a mask.”

Grassley said the Legislature is working to expand remote access to proceedings, and to make meeting spaces safer for those attending in person.

“We’re going to do more streaming of the committees and subcommittees process, utilizing larger spaces, making sure that we can do the best we can to social distance,” Grassley added.

Whitver said he will encourage senators to wear masks when they can’t stay 6 feet apart. “We have to keep the big picture in mind. We have an agenda and we need to get it done. Those that don’t want to wear a mask risk quarantine or shutting down the session.”

Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls said Democrats plan to wear masks. “I’m concerned and want to avoid turning the Legislature into a super-spreader event,” Wahls said. “So we’re going to be doing everything that we know to do without our caucus to protect ourselves and protect the public from further spreading this virus.

The lawmakers spoke at a meeting with reporters arranged by the Iowa Capitol Press Association.

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