UIHC health official says vaccine supply is short, but ‘we can handle this’

COVID-19 vaccine for phase 1b will be scheduled at UIHC later this week.


Shivansh Ahuja for The Daily Iow

Patients are injected with the COVID-19 vaccine at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Modern vaccine for its employees.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will offer COVID-19 vaccination to those eligible in the second round of vaccination, phase 1B, on Feb. 1, though hospital leaders say vaccine supply is short in the state.

UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said in a press conference on Tuesday that UIHC will be able to administer a steady flow of COVID-19 vaccinations. He said UIHC will begin to schedule appointments later this week as soon as the amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses are confirmed for next week.

“We want Iowans to understand that there is very much hope here,” Gunasekaran said. “This will start with a bit of frustration. As we know that there’s a little bit of a vaccine supply shortage, but we want everyone to understand that we can handle this.”

Gunasekaran said the state has indicated there will be about 19,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in the entire state during the week of Feb. 1. The doses will be divided between Iowa’s 99 counties by population and vary from several hundred doses to about 1,000, he said.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccination includes persons age 65 and older, correctional facility staff and individuals incarcerated, food, agriculture, distribution, and manufacturing workers, PK-12 school staff, early childhood education, and childcare workers. Also listed are first responders, inspectors responsible for the hospital, long-term care, and child safety, and government officials.

RELATED: Johnson County prepares for second phase of COVID-19 vaccination

Gunasekaran said UIHC consulted with other medical centers across the country to design its vaccination program.

“We’ve tried to learn from those best practices and develop our own program,” he said.

In phase 1A, UIHC frequently vaccinated over 1,000 UIHC employees in one day at the same location, he said.

“We’d like to move through the doses that were allocated from the state, in a very rapid succession,” Gunasekaran said. “We were able to do that without folks having to spend a lot of time in a cramped setting.”

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 195,260 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Iowa. In Johnson County, 16,874 doses have been administered.

Rather than offering a walk-in vaccination program, UIHC’s program will be based on scheduling and efficiency. Gunasekaran said the first step for patients and community members who have expressed interest in the COVID-19 vaccine will be to access an online portal hosted by UIHC.

UIHC has also tested out a drive-through configuration for their vaccination program, he said.

“What we’re going to do is collect information on who’s interested in our local service area, and then use that to schedule patients that come into dedicated centers,” Gunasekaran said. “We’re also piloting during this week the ability to [administer COVID-19 vaccinations] in a drive-through configuration, as well as a park and walk-in configurations. The both of those are being practiced this week.”