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Iowa Pharmacies Help Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine

Coronavirus Impacting Iowa

NEVADA, Iowa – Many Iowans are going to pharmacies to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Those who work there say their workload is getting heavier, as eligibility expanded this week.

NuCara Pharmacy in Nevada is administering about 40 shots a day. It’s seeing people from as far as Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Polk County coming to get them.

Even though eligibility has opened up across the state, NuCara Pharmacy is making sure the most vulnerable still have a chance to get the shot. 

“One good thing about opening it up is we were spending a lot of time making sure we were finding the right people, rather than just trying to get vaccines in arms as quickly as we can,” Brett Barker, vice president of operations at NuCara Pharmacy, said. “So it is good that it’s opened up, but at the same time for the folks most at risk for COVID we want to make sure that they don’t get left behind because they didn’t know how to find a vaccine.”

NuCara will go through its waitlist of people 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions. The goal is to open up eligibility in the next couple of weeks.

Barker says NuCara is part of the federal pharmacy program, and has distributed all three of the available COVID-19 vaccines. The biggest challenge there is keeping track of the different dose windows.

It’s important to remember these pharmacies also have to manage the daily workflow and volume of prescriptions. Barker said it can be challenging to keep up, that’s why NuCara has brought in extra part-time people to help.

“Folks in my profession are a little bit frazzled right now trying to keep up with all that, but it’s something that we’ve trained for,” Barker said. “Pharmacies are willing and able to step up to help in the pandemic. We also are used to doing a fair amount of vaccines especially in the fall, so at least you know that’s something that’s not abnormal for us to have those seasons that are busy with vaccines.”

NuCara has partnered with the Story County Medical Center to administer the vaccine outside of the pharmacy. Barker said this experience shows how big a part community pharmacies are playing in getting people vaccinated.

“We have the most efficient and robust vaccine distribution system in the world sitting at the corner American drugstore,” Barker said. “So it’s been a really good success story to be able to use pharmacies to reach more folks, particularly in rural Iowa. We’re in almost every community. Across the state, there’s a pharmacy presence so being able to use community pharmacy has been an important part of that process.”

Barker encourages people to be patient with pharmacies throughout the vaccination process. If you traveled to receive your first dose, he advises to go back to the same place to receive your second dose as the vaccines are shipped in pairs.

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