PHC hosts free vaccine clinic amidst seasonal COVID-19 spike

T-R PHOTO BY NICK BAUR — PHC of Marshalltown employees were among the many beneficiaries of the healthcare organization’s free vaccine clinic inside the Marshalltown Public Library on Saturday.

With the holiday season and colder weather causing COVID-19 infections to rise in recent weeks, Primary Health Care (PHC) of Marshalltown provided a free COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Marshalltown Public Library on Saturday to help keep local residents up to date on the latest inoculations against the illness.

As of Jan. 9, Marshall County boasts a fully vaccinated rate of 67.5% among its residents, and Iowa as a whole recently eclipsed a 60% fully vaccinated rate among the general population, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Yet, as new variants of the illness continue to emerge, specifically a new COVID-19 offshoot of omicron called XBB.1.5, national and local health officials are stressing for individuals to get the bivalent COVID-19 booster shot as soon as possible.

The bivalent COVID-19 vaccines include a component of the original virus strain to provide broad protection against COVID-19 and a component of the omicron variant to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.

Saturday’s free vaccine clinic is part of PHC’s continued efforts to assist in opening up accessibility and availability of the bivalent booster shots as they become vital to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“You meet the people where they’re at,” said April May, Registered Nurse and lead of PHC’s infectious disease outreach programs. “A lot of people can’t take time off to come into the clinic or to make an appointment. So if we can meet them at the library or their religious center, we go to churches, we go to homeless camps, we meet people where they’re at, and we do get a much better response that way.”

Particularly of note in Marshalltown, the clinic also offered greater avenues for non-English speakers in the community to quickly and smoothly receive their vaccines.

“We’re very lucky because we always have people that look like the people that we take care of,” May said, citing the Burmese and Spanish speaking nurses on hand at the clinic . “It’s very important for them to be able to come in and speak to someone in their language, to ask questions in that language, it makes them more comfortable and more willing.”

While many in the Marshalltown area may already be fully vaccinated at this point in the fight against COVID, Shawn Carkhuff, Clinic Administrator at Primary Health Care, said the clinic saw plenty of people take advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated. It also gave local health experts a chance to keep people up to date on COVID-19 information.

“We’ve had a really good turnout,” Carkhuff said. “I think the benefit of it is also just [closing] the education gap. The health literacy gets better because we provide the actual literacy to them as well, information that they need. If they have questions, we’re here to answer, or they can get a hold of the clinic and come in and ask questions too, we’re always able to help.”

The community outreach program comes at a time where many other infectious, respiratory diseases are also spreading throughout Iowa, May says.

“We have what we call that triple-demic going on with the RSV, the flu and COVID,” she said. “So people are coming to get vaccinated more just to prevent their chance of getting COVID.”

Alongside the now familiar methods of stopping the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask, washing hands regularly, and staying home if sick with illness, May also stressed the importance of getting tested if you suspect you may have come down COVID-19.

“Test, test, test,” May said. “There’s free tests you can pick up at Primary Health Care. If you think that you’re sick, it might not just be a cold, get a free test and go home and test.”

While the total number of cases of COVID-19 have dropped across Iowa since the height of the pandemic, it appears the illness continues to linger despite growing vaccination rates and will still require the public to remain vigilant in the future.

“It’s getting better controlled, I think,” Carkhuff said. “But people have to have the education and keep up to date on the vaccines.”


Contact Nick Baur at 641-753-6611 or nbaur@timesrepublican.com.


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