Mar 23, 2021 - News

Des Moines residents flock to rural areas to snag COVID vaccines

Iowa residents who have received at least one round of COVID-19 vaccine
Data: Iowa Department of Public Health; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

For Des Moines residents, finding and booking a COVID-19 vaccine in a smaller community is sometimes their best shot at a shot, leaving some in a moral quandary about the practice.

Don't worry: Iowans who are eligible should not feel guilty about getting their shot, even if it's outside their community, said Nancy Berlinger, a bioethicist with the Hastings Center.

She noted the practice does raise some bigger questions:

  1. Is there enough supply in urban areas if people are resorting to driving long distances?
  2. Are there outreach problems in rural areas, like language, technology or education barriers, that are causing appointments to sit?

Our map doesn't show a particular trend.

  • Some rural counties have immunization rates under 20%, but so does Dallas County — home to West Des Moines and Waukee.

The state of play: Brian Finley, the mind behind the viral Twitter account @IAVaccineAlert, said appointments in Des Moines or Iowa City get snatched up as quickly as they're posted.

  • But appointments are sitting longer in smaller cities like Spencer (pop. 11,000).

Pay it forward: If you're a tech-savvy person who booked an appointment, offer to use those skills to help someone else, Berlinger has encouraged on Twitter.

  • "I'm really trying hard to get everybody to kind of look around them ... the neighborhood grandmas, the ladies down at the bingo hall ... help pull them across the finish line," Finley said.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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