Federal Retail Pharmacy Program Expected to Begin COVID-19 Vaccinations in Iowa This Week

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Quicker rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Iowa is expected this week through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. 

The Iowa Pharmacy Association expects the new program to begin in the state as soon as Thursday, with the first part of the program being designated for Iowans 65 and older.

Vaccination data from the CDC shows Iowa is ranked near the bottom of the list for vaccine distribution. This program hopes to expand access by sending vaccines straight from the CDC to pharmacies, which will allow them to vaccinate people within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine.

“These pharmacies will receive doses, although not a lot of doses. In some cases, only 100 doses per week at a single pharmacy location, but the federal program is designed to ramp up over time,” Kate Gainer, CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association, said. “So that would mean more doses of vaccine and it would also mean more pharmacies that the federal government would ship covid vaccine doses directly to.”

At the start there will be two partners in the state, that’s Hy-Vee and CPESN Iowa. CPESN stands for Community Pharmacy Enhanced Service Network. 

CPESN Iowa Executive Director Lindsey Ludwig said right now, about 79 of the 120 pharmacies in the network are enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Eventually, all of its pharmacies across the state will provide vaccinations.

“Some are partnering with their local public health departments. Some are receiving initial allocations from this federal pharmacy partner slow rollout with CPESN, and others will be part of other federal pharmacy partners and will be activated in the future,” Ludwig explained. “So across the state, all members of CPESN will be vaccinating in some form or another, it’s just when.”

The Iowa Pharmacy Association said people should check pharmacy websites and social media pages, since many pharmacies are getting bombarded with phone calls. IPA also has advice when it comes to doses.

“The important thing is to be sure you received your second dose at the same provider where your first was received,” Gainer explained, “because those shipments and those vaccine allocations are being sent to providers based on first doses that they gave. So they have your second dose if you got your first dose, either at a pharmacy or local public health or your health system.” 

Iowans are advised to be patient, keep checking, and keep trying. Information is continually changing for these pharmacies as far as how many doses they will receive and how many appointments they can schedule.

The state has a tool on its coronavirus website to help Iowans find vaccine providers near them. You can check the website here.

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