Message to Boone County Residents
Since late December, Boone County Public Health has been receiving a limited number of COVID-19 vaccines. Boone County Public Health is a service provided by Boone County Hospital (BCH) through a contract between BCH and the Boone County Board of Supervisors. The allocations will remain consistent for right now and we will continue to designate up to 200 doses for the public and homebound. We are hopeful that after this month, we will receive more. Boone County residents are currently receiving vaccinations from Boone County Public Health and we are now beginning to see that some are available through our local pharmacies.
With the pharmacies, our county is receiving 400 to 600 does per week. Both BCH and our local pharmacies are obligated by the State of Iowa to distribute these vaccines according to a priority system developed by the State Department of Public Health. As of today, we are limited to individuals over 65 and school employees. We estimate that there are about 5,000 people that meet that criteria in Boone County. If everyone in that category were to request a vaccine, it would take roughly two and one-half months to do that with the current supply. There is understandably a great deal of frustration among many who are trying to be vaccinated with such a short supply.
BCH is reviewing our process for scheduling individuals for vaccination and we understand that some organizations across the State are using different processes for scheduling these vaccines. BCH is currently using a telephone system for signing people up for a vaccination date and time. We hope to have an online self-scheduling process available in the coming weeks; we will keep you updated. Other organizations in our area (McFarland Clinic) are using their patient base and contacting patients and putting them on a waiting list based on their age.
With our current process we have been able to effectively distribute the vaccines we receive from the State each week. Once we know we have a specific number of vaccines, we have been able to schedule clinics and distribute the vaccine very quickly. That’s what we are doing well.
However, we realize that this process has been beyond frustrating for folks in the county seeking a vaccination to COVID-19. Our phone system has been overwhelmed by calls and that has led to many dropped calls and has required folks to call repeatedly to get through to a scheduler. Many more are not able to get through than those who are. Recently, we worked with a product that should have allowed callers to be put in a que based on when their call was received to eliminate the need to call over and over. That system failed on February 17th and we had the same issue that we have had previously. We are working to fix those problems and hope next week that problem will be solved eliminating the need to call repeatedly into the reservation number.
We have discussed using a process like McFarland and the Iowa Clinic to call our patients directly and put them on a waiting list by age, but we also realize that not all residents of Boone County doctor with one of our physicians or BCH. Therefore, we question the fairness of limiting out vaccines to these individuals.
We do believe that over time, more vaccines will be made available through Public Health and through our local pharmacies. We are prepared to vaccinate large numbers once the supply of vaccine becomes available. Please know that we understand how frustrating this is and also understand that as vaccines become available we will be able to distribute them as quickly and fairly as possible.