Polk County faces COVID-19 vaccine shortage, pleads for patience, online signups

A medical worker holds a vial of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of Truman Medical Centers/University Health)

Polk County medical facilities have a severe shortage of COVID-19 vaccine, leading officials to plead with residents to schedule their appointments online. 

With patience.

The best place to start is at the Polk County Health Department, at this website, county officials said Tuesday.  

People who don’t have internet access can call the county at 515.286.3798, option 6. Officials suggested asking a family member to help with the online form, but pharmacy representatives said they may be able to mail forms in limited cases.

All health officials at a Polk County briefing Tuesday made it clear that health workers don’t have a lot of time to answer phone calls regarding vaccines. Medicap and Hy-Vee offer information on their procedures online. The Drake University College of Pharmacy (at the Harkin Center) is helping with vaccinations, too.

Appointments often will be offered online at various medical facilities beginning Fridays, when Polk County lets the providers know how many vaccines each will have available in the next week. The slots filled within a day last week when everyone age 65 or over was allowed to sign up. The list of those eligible to get vaccines will grow Feb. 1

Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy said Iowa received a bit over 18,000 vaccines a week for the whole state. In Polk County alone, there are 61,000 residents over age 65, she noted. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health has set up a priority list of people who are eligible to get vaccinations before vaccine supplies allow anyone to ask for a vaccine. 

As of Monday, 195,260 vaccines have been administered in Iowa, the state health department reported. So far, 32,564 residents have received the recommended two doses of vaccine. The state has 3.2 million residents. 

Eddy said the county has plenty of people to give the vaccines at clinics, pharmacies and other facilities, and has brought in student volunteers from Des Moines University. The hold up is the lack of vaccine, she added.

Once enough vaccine is available, the county will consider opening a mass vaccination site to make access to the injections easier. She noted that those who get the first vaccinations can get the second one at a different facility if needed.

Eddy said there are signs that the number of cases and hospitalizations are leveling off in Polk County, but there still is significant community spread. “It is imperative that we continue the mitigation practices (such as mask-wearing) we have used throughout the pandemic,” Eddy said. “These mitigation practices keep our community safe until enough people are vaccinated.”

Eddy said the small supply of vaccines has meant taking another dose of patience. “We know that many of you are eager to receive vaccine. However, at this time, demand far exceeds supply.”

Statewide, there are about 1,700 vaccine providers. The Iowa Legislature is now considering whether to allow dentists to vaccinate patients.