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“We do not have enough vaccines to offer”: Officials say limited supply slows vaccination efforts in Linn County

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL)- Linn County public health officials do not have enough COVID-19 vaccines currently to gives shots in the arms to everyone who wants them. In a virtual press conference Wednesday morning, officials said they don't have enough to cover all of Phase 1A in Linn County. As of Monday, the county had administered just under 7,000 doses of the vaccine.

RELATED: Cedar Rapids hospitals give their first COVID-19 vaccine doses to employees

Phase 1A includes front-line health care workers, long-term care residents, and staff members. The country has between 20,000 and 30,000 health care workers. Because of the large number of health care workers, officials said it could take the county longer to get to the next phase, 1B, than other counties.

"Without an increase in vaccine supplies, we will not be able to offer all individuals identified in phase 1A and 1B immunizations, as quickly as anyone would like," Linn County Public Health Department Clinical Services Supervisor Heather Meador said. "It may be months until everyone in the first two phases can receive the vaccine."

The state's phase 1B rollout plan was released on Tuesday and is expected to start next month. Shots will be given to people 75 and older, correctional facilities employees and residents, first responders, and teachers. At least half of the phase 1B doses will go to seniors. Meador said the county health department is still working with the state's infectious disease advisory council to prioritize who, within phase 1B, will get the vaccine first.

The health department has a registry of facilities that qualify for phase 1B to match them with a vaccine site when it is their turn.

Meador said it is harder for individuals because officials don't know when they will get more doses of COVID-19 vaccines or how much will be available.

"We understand the frustration that the vaccine rollout has caused for many people," Meador said. "We are frustrated as well. The vaccine supply availability is beyond our control."

Mercy Medical Center Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Tony Myers said he instructed his staff to get the vaccine shots they do have into arms as quickly as possible. Now that they have seen the weapon that will hopefully end the war, they need more of it.

"We finally have a tool to get those masks off our faces and to be able to go out to have dinner with our loved ones, and we need to use it," he said. "The vaccine is not the enemy COVID is."

Both hospitals have had a few extra doses. Myers said they have been given to other emergency medical services and this week they are giving some to dental offices.

Once Linn County gets more vaccines and determines it can move on to those in group 1B, health officials said they plan to put out more information about how those who qualify can get their doses.

Public health officials said they are getting many questions from the general public about how to sign up, but there is not currently a way to do that.

For updates on the vaccine roll-out, Meador encouraged residents to use the 'Notify Me' tool on the department's website. That way, they can stay up to date on the COVID-19 spread and vaccine rollout process.

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Daniel Perreault

Reporter

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