(Des Moines) -- State officials in Iowa are preparing for an influx of COVID-19 vaccine demand once eligibility is opened up on Monday.
Starting Monday, anyone over the age of 18 will be eligible to receive a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while anyone over 16 will be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Governor Kim Reynolds says the state is anticipating a large number of residents to start looking for available appointments on Monday morning, but cautions that open slots will go fast.
"Expanding the eligibility opens the opportunity for more Iowans to be vaccinated, but it also means that more Iowans will be vying for the vaccine appointments as they become available," said Reynolds. "Even though the vaccine supply is increasing, there still -- at this point -- won't be enough doses to vaccinate everyone immediately."
Reynolds says she is confident that vaccine providers will be ready for the onslaught. She says the systems that they have developed in the early stages of vaccine administration will be able to be scaled up.
"Our local public health departments and our vaccine providers statewide have proven time and time again that our system of vaccine distribution and administration is working extremely well," said Reynolds. "We're just waiting for those allocations to continue to increase to states across the country."
Additionally, the state is expanding outreach and assistance efforts to help Iowans find vaccine availability. Reynolds says the state's 211 call center is now scheduling appointments for anyone over the age of 65, as well as those 18-64 with underlying health conditions.
"These are individuals who can't schedule an appointment on their own, whether that's due to technology issues or language barriers," said Reynolds. "By simply dialing 211 and selecting number 9 to speak with a vaccine navigator and providing some general information, they can be scheduled for an appointment at a nearby pharmacy."
Reynolds says she also received word this week that the federal government is expanding its retail pharmacy vaccination program. She says that could mean more rural pharmacies in Iowa will receive vaccine doses.
"While we don't know yet which pharmacies could be added in our state, we anticipate that some are already in the program," said Reynolds. "That would include smaller pharmacies in rural areas that have received very limited allocations so far. They could actually see an increase in their weekly federal supply, improving vaccine access for their communities."
Reynolds also announced that the state will begin distributing vaccines to colleges around the state to help vaccinate students and staff before the end of the spring semester.