University of Iowa students advised to take first available vaccine appointment

The university and Johnson County Public Health are recommending that students take the first available appointment they can find rather than waiting for appointments to open up in the county.


Katie Goodale

Photo Illustration by Katie Goodale

Lily Rosen Marvin, News Reporter

After weeks of checking location after location for vaccine appointments, University of Iowa junior Jenna Walsh said she was excited when she finally found an open appointment at the HyVee in Cedar Rapids.

“I’ve been looking for a while because I work at Catlett Market Place, so I really wanted [a vaccine],’” Walsh said. “I kept looking at HyVee and at the Johnson County website and all the locations were always full just with all the health care workers living here. My boss told me she got her vaccine in Cedar Rapids, so I checked the Cedar Rapids HyVee for a few weeks and then one day I looked it up and saw the location had an open appointment.”

Walsh said she immediately called her boyfriend, Trevor Kurtzhals, who is a first-year graduate student at the UI, and the two of them were able to find open appointments in Cedar Rapids and Marion respectively.

Both said they qualified under the current priority groups in Johnson County but had been unable to find appointments in the Iowa City area.

A recent COVID-19 update email from the UI suggested that students should take the first vaccine appointment they can get, rather than wait for appointments to become available in Johnson County

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Johnson County Community Health Division Manager Sam Jarvis wrote that his department agrees with the university’s advice.

“If offered or there is an opportunity, we’re encouraging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. On April 5, the state will make every Iowan, 16 and older eligible,” Jarvis wrote. “If you’re traveling to visit home and there’s an opportunity, please [get the vaccine] and if it’s a two-dose series, ensure that you make time to get your second shot as well for the most amount of protection.”

RELATED: University of Iowa to distribute vaccines for students and staff before semester’s end

As more Iowans become eligible to receive the vaccine, Jarvis added that there will likely be an increase in people traveling from densely populated areas like Johnson County to more rural areas where vaccine uptake is not as high.

“I really want this pandemic to be over with and I want to be vaccinated so I was really excited. I called Trevor right away and was like ‘let’s get this done,’” Walsh said.

Although vaccine appointments are expected to become more widely available starting April 5 as vaccine supplies increase, Walsh said it was important to her to get her vaccine as soon as possible.

“My family is very adamant about getting the vaccine before we can see each other, so I haven’t seen my dad since Christmas,” Walsh said. “I really want to see my family and also just having a normal summer would be great. Also, just being able to see my mom, and we had a trip planned for the summer so hopefully being able to do that if both of us are vaccinated.”

Although he was also excited to get the vaccine, Kurtzhals said he was not as dead set on getting the vaccine as Walsh.

“I was unsure whether it was really necessary or not for me [to get the vaccine],” Kurtzhals said. “Also, just apprehension with it being an emergency vaccine, I did a lot of research as much as I could just to be as informed as I could about how it works, and the potential long-term effects.”

Ultimately, Kurtzhals said getting the vaccine was a good step towards getting things back to normal and getting to hang out with friends and family.

“I was excited to get the appointment because Jenna said she couldn’t see her family and I think for me it was about honoring others. Getting the vaccine to not transmit it to others,” Kurtzhals said. “I mean obviously for myself, as well, because I don’t want to get sick. But I think it protects you and it also protects others.”