County health departments say Governor Reynolds is changing vaccine with little notice

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 11:01 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - County health leaders said they will be spending the weekend scrambling to adapt to new state rules about who can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Governor said people 16 to 64 with risk factors would be eligible to receive a vaccine starting Monday.

However, county health leaders said next week’s vaccines were already spoken for.

“It was dropped on us last night, so we don’t have a set plan on how we will serve the population,” said Buchanan County Health Director Tai Buckhart.

Burkhart said all 400 shots they would give out next week were already scheduled.

“We’re trying to make it as widely available as possible, but some of the other clinics for that tier group were set,” she said. “I can’t take that vaccine back to change direction.”

The state announcement Thursday night vastly expanded who could get a shot but did come with much notice to county health departments. Burkhart said they’ve been planning clinics for weeks and need time to make the necessary changes.

“A week or two would’ve been better that way we would’ve known not to plan five clinics for businesses,” she said. “We could have done three clinics and do two clinics for the newly added population in need because of chronic health conditions.”

This wasn’t the first time Burkhart and her department felt the state mislead them. Three weeks ago, the state told her they were withholding the weekly vaccine allotment. The state did that to sic counties that didn’t meet its distribution threshold but then walked back the threat days later.

“I’m exhausted,” said Burkhart. “That’s the best way we can summarize it. We love what we do, and we want to help the community.”

This was what Governor Reynolds’ team had to say during a meeting Friday afternoon with frustrated health departments.

“We hear you, and we’ve heard you every time,” said the person representing the Governor over the phone. “We recognize that everything is so compressed, and it just continues to be that way. We are doing everything we can to try and give as much notice. We recognize that we just haven’t been able to get into a place where we can give several days’ notice.”

Burkhart said she would be working this weekend to form a plan to include the newly added group, not this week, but for the following week. Until then, she’s reminding herself that this work matters and that validation comes from a safer community.

“Today, I was able to give a vaccine to a person who was so happy,” she said. “She started crying, and you realize this was why we’re doing this, to protect the individuals.”

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