As Hardin County Public Health officials prepare to start Phase 1B of the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution program, other local health care providers want to join Medicap Pharmacy of Eldora as options to administer those shots.
Right now, Hardin County Public Health Coordinator Rocky Reents said that is not possible because the county isn't receiving enough doses to distribute them to more than one provider.
The discussion spilled into Wednesday's Hardin County Board of Supervisors meeting.
During public comment, Kendra Veld, office manager at Hubbard Medical Clinic, spoke up during public comment. She said she was attending the meeting on behalf of her employer, as well as McFarland Clinic and UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine.
Veld said patients have been calling the Hubbard Medical Center on a daily basis, asking questions about the vaccine and the timeline for when they will be vaccinated.
"Most call on a daily basis because they are listening to news media, and people lately are getting vaccines in other counties. On Sunday, someone drove all the way to Des Moines to get the vaccine. We have someone staying in Florida because they think they can get the vaccine sooner in Florida than in Hardin County," Veld said. "It was released in December that Medicap was going to be the only pharmacy to provide the vaccine, which was fine. But no one called us us three clinics and asked if we were willing and able to provide the vaccine. We are OK with (Phase) 1A being done with Medicap. As we approach (Phase) 1B , we know it's going to be a much tougher task. We have all agreed we could help with vaccinating patients."
While Phase 1A provided vaccines to health care workers and residents and staff of long term care facilities, Phase 1B opens vaccine eligibility to first responders, educators, child care providers and people age 65 and older.
Veld said she participated in a Zoom meeting with Reents, who indicated to her that other health care providers would receive the vaccine for distribution once the county knew how many doses it would receive from the state. The following day, Veld said clinic managers received an email stating that for now, Medicap Pharmacy would continue to be the sole distributor of the vaccine.
"That almost makes us feel like we cannot handle the vaccine, when we truly can," Veld said. "We want our patients to feel comfortable if they want to get their vaccines through their medical provider."
Veld isn't the only Hardin County health care provider who's raised issue with the public health agency's decision to work with just one vaccine distributor. Colette Venteicher, owner of Clinic Pharmacy in Iowa Falls, said earlier this month that she's prepared to offer the vaccine, and she's also fielding daily calls from patients and customers.
"As the google form is a great form for people to sign up, but not everyone over the age of 65 has the capability of doing that," Veld said, referring to an online form launched by Hardin County Public Health on Monday to handle the volume of people who want to sign up for a vaccine. "We spend multiple hours every day filling out that form for patients. They don't want to be classified as a dot-com patient. They just want to come to our facility where they know we will give them the vaccine and answer any questions they have. Now that the vaccine is to be increased on the amounts being sent out, we just ask that the entities that want to provide it in Hardin County are able to receive it from Greenbelt Home Care."
During Wednesday's meeting, Reents said her agency just learned it will receive its first allotment of vaccine doses for Phase 1B.
"It sounds like we will be allocated 100 doses to begin Phase 1B of over 65 and up and educators in Hardin County," Reents said. "That's only 50 doses per tier in that phase, so we are working to make sure that we get the vaccine out as quickly as possible and not have any waste.
"We understand the providers' concerns in the county, but with being allocated so little vaccine, we are just trying to do our best here," she added.
Supervisor Chairman BJ Hoffman asked Reents if more providers will be enlisted to distribute the vaccine when more doses are widely available.
"Yes. That's what I alluded to Kendra last week as well," Reents said. "As we receive an increase in the vaccine, we are well aware we are not going to be able to do what we are doing, and we will call upon those for help. As of right now with our allocation so small, this is a better option right now."