Gov. Reynolds Says Microsoft To Build Centralized Vaccine Registration Database As State's Allocation Increases
Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced the state has selected Microsoft to build a centralized system for Iowans to register for COVID-19 appointments, but she said it will take a few weeks for the system to start running.
As Iowa's administration rate for COVID-19 vaccinations continues to be one of the lowest in the nation, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state has selected Microsoft to build a centralized vaccine registration system to request an appointment.
Reynolds said the system is expected to be up and running within a few weeks, and that the state is also reviewing proposals for a centralized call center for vaccine information.
The state put out a request for proposals looking for vendors that could help build a centralized database and call center last week, days after Iowa moved into vaccine phase 1B, phase 1, which includes more than 600,000 Iowans.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Reynolds said the reason the state didn’t put out a request for proposals earlier is because it has tried to use current systems in place.
"We've tried to take the infrastructure that we have, and make that available," she said. "And the -- some of the problem is really, a lot of our systems are just so antiquated, and they're siloed. And they're not operating in the capacity that we need them to do."
Recently, the state has faced criticism for its distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, which state officials, including Reynolds, say is going slower than anticipated.
According to the New York Times, just 8.2 percent of Iowans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, making it the fifth-lowest in the nation and below the national average of 9.9 percent.
State health officials confirmed this week that they will now require counties to administer 80 percent of their weekly first dose allocations or risk losing the next week's allocation.
Reynolds said Wednesday the state's allocation is expected to increase to 49,900 as early as the end of this week.
She said the state has been making "good progress" on its distribution since last week and that it is looking into ways to help counties that fall behind on its distribution.
"We are working with them to provide contract nurses to help," Reynolds said. "And we're also looking at ways that the Iowa National Guard can support mass vaccination efforts across the state, if necessary. Additional doses for some counties may be reallocated to others while they get caught up."
Reynolds also defended her decision to lift the state’s limited indoor mask requirement and other COVID-19 restrictions, a decision that's been criticized by some public health experts.
Reynolds' newest public health disaster proclamation, which went into effect last Sunday, lifted COVID-19 restrictions that apply to the general public, including gathering restrictions and a limited mask mandate that only applied to indoor public spaces.
Reynolds said she made her decision to ease most restrictions because the number of infections and hospitalizations have dropped across Iowa.
"It's a balance. I'm not saying go out there and be carefree and not be responsible. I'm saying I trust Iowans to do the right thing. And I know our businesses will do the right thing too," she said.
Earlier this week, several Democratic lawmakers reported a top state health official told them Reynolds did not consult with the Iowa Department of Public Health before removing the restrictions.
Reynolds' decision also came days after the state announced on Feb. 1 that a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, known as the UK variant, had been detected in three people in Iowa.
In an open letter to the governor, Iowa Public Health Association Executive Director Lina Tucker Reinders and Board President Jeremy Whitaker called the lifting of mask and gathering restrictions "actively detrimental to our pursuit to end the pandemic."
"The downward trend in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is cause for cautious optimism – the spread of variant strains coupled with limited supply of vaccine underscore that now is not the time to abandon masks, social distancing, or limits on gatherings."