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Rural county hospital pursuing all avenues to get more vaccine

Clarke County Hospital CEO Brian Evans said at the rate he is receiving the vaccine, it will be months until the elderly population in the county is vaccinated.

OSCEOLA, Iowa — Clarke County is home to a large produce plant, a casino and is Gov. Kim Reynolds' home county.

Nearly one-third of its population is over the age of 65, putting them in the current tier of Iowans eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But for Clark and every other county in Iowa, there simply isn't enough vaccine doses to put shots in the arms of everyone eligible.

"We're as frustrated as everyone else," Clarke County Hospital CEO Brian Evans said.

Evans' facility is one of two locations in the county giving out the vaccine.

The local public health department is vaccinating first responders, child care providers, and educators right now. The county hospital is handling the elderly. 

But with just 100 doses a week, it will take more than a month for Evans' staff to vaccinate those 65 and older. 

"Unfortunately the state isn't receiving a lot of doses right now," said Evans. "And if the state isn't receiving them, then they can't send them to us. So it's really a situation of what is the national supply?"

Clarke County Public Health leaders divide up the 100 doses each week: 50 are for the health department and 50 go to the Clarke County Hospital.

In late January, the hospital set up a waiting list for those 65 and older. On the first day, Evans said more than 900 people called to get on the list.

He said he has explored various avenues to get attention for his county's lack of vaccine, even calling Reynolds, who reiterated the lack of doses allocated to the state.

Evans decided to dish out money for an ultra-cold freezer that could hold the Pfizer vaccine. The vials come in larger quantities and have to be stored in temperatures -112°F to -76°F.

"We wanted to better position ourselves to receive the Pfizer vaccine because we're able to get a higher number of vaccines and then we are able to get those to our community members faster," Evans said.

He also contacted Rep. Cindy Axne's office to get help with more doses and invited a staff member from Sen. Chuck Grassley's office to sit in on an upcoming county meeting.

"We're just trying to make sure our story is heard and that we are doing everything we can do at a local level and a state level to get more vaccines."

Watch more vaccine stories from Local 5 on YouTube

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