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Iowa introduces efforts to assist with vaccine questions

Iowa introduces efforts to assist with vaccine questions

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a meeting Friday at Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport.

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 Friday, 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 state data.

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.

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.”

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