Iowans tops 1M shots as state struggles with appointments

March 12, 2021 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — More than 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Iowa, the state announced Friday, even as residents who qualify struggled to make appointments for a shot.

The Iowa Department of Public Health said Iowa has administered 1.03 million doses. The milestone reflects significant increases in vaccine supply, but it was unclear how the state would handle surging demand as more adults become eligible in the coming months.

Iowa has no centralized system for people to make a vaccine appointment. Gov. Kim Reynolds dismissed an early plan to pay Microsoft to set up a statewide registration and appointment scheduling program. Instead, the state set up a website that offers information about where to get vaccines but leaves scheduling to individuals.


“I have people contacting me who are setting their alarms for midnight so that when pharmacies will upload their new appointment schedules they’re able to get up and try to get an appointment,” said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, a Democrat, who has criticized Reynolds’ handling of the vaccine rollout. “We are in the middle of a leadership vacuum here.”

For people aged 65 and older with no online access, the state has a telephone system set up through its 211 information hotline with vaccine navigators who help callers set up appointments. Reynolds said the system received 1,600 calls on the first day of operation on Tuesday and had set up more than 2,000 appointments as of Friday.

“This has been a monumental effort, and our state has proven that we have the right teams, providers and processes in place to safely and efficiently vaccinate Iowans in a timely manner,” Reynolds said in a statement.

President Joe Biden said Thursday evening that he expects the nation to have sufficient vaccine supply by May 1 so anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to schedule an appointment. Reynolds said Iowa could beat that deadline if vaccine supply increases and remains stable.

It’s unclear whether Iowa is prepared to handle such a volume of people when there already appears to be a bottleneck setting up appointments.

Other states also have struggled to set up vaccination scheduling systems. The White House has promised to establish a new website and a toll-free phone number by May 1 to help people find nearby locations with vaccines.

Some states already have opened up shots for anyone who wants them. Michigan announced Friday that all adults will be eligible for vaccination starting April 5.


To help alleviate confusion in Iowa, University of Iowa software application developer Brian Finley set up a Twitter feed on Wednesday that automatically sends out notification of new vaccine availabilities at pharmacies and other provider locations across the state. The Iowa Vaccine Alerts page had more than 11,000 followers by Friday afternoon.

Finley said he initially devised the software to help arrange appointments for his family and then decided it could help other Iowans.

“The way Iowa has rolled out statewide is not the greatest. It’s hard to get an appointment,” he said.

He encouraged people to use his alert system wisely, asking users to think about whether they should drive across the state to find a vaccine or whether it might be better to leave the smaller allocations in smaller towns for those residents.

“I can’t (and we shouldn’t) pass judgement about each person’s individual situation, but I hope we can all make a responsible decision, framed with our advantages and privileges, and do what’s best for the community as a whole,” he said.

Iowa public health officials posted 559 new confirmed virus cases Friday and 11 more deaths for a total of 5,631.