Department of Public Health Issuing Free Opioid Overdose Reversal Vaccine

IOWA  --  Narcan is a vaccine used to revive people who overdose on opioids, and starting next week it will be handed out for free to nearly to nearly 2,000 Iowans in over 350 pharmacies across the state.

“This is just a temporary solution to the respiratory depression the person has experienced. It released the seal and just enters it into the person's nose and pushes the plunger," said Kevin Gabbert, Opioid Initiatives Director at the Iowa Department of Public Health.

According to the department, 200 Iowans died of an opioid-related overdose in 2017. That number is up from 59 in 2005.

"Opioids are a problem across the Midwest and across the country. If we don’t get behind fixing the problem, everyone paying for a portion of it, which means if providing that for free is the answer that gets beyond that, that's what we should do," Des Moines resident Michelle Wermuth said.

The health department says the free Narcan handout, also sponsored by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy and Iowa Pharmacy Association, gets behind the problem and helps reduce the number of deaths.

In 2016, legislators legalized easy access to the vaccine.

"Any pharmacist that wants to use her standing order can honor that, and individuals that come into that pharmacy can purchase naloxone without previously being seen by a physician," Gabbert said.

“I don’t know whether they'll get help or not, but if they keep taking these illegal drugs, they’ll eventually get the job done, whether it's accidental or on purpose," Rep. Clel Baudler said in 2016.

Through federal tax grant money, the Department of Public Health bought $150,000 worth of Narcan, which will be given out on a first come, first served basis. Narcan nasal spray usually cost $150.

The handouts begin next Friday, June 29th. Anyone is welcome to pick up the vaccine.

Click here to find out which pharmacies are participating in the handout. A questionnaire must be filled out before collecting the vaccine, and those picking up the vaccine must receive instructions from a pharmacist.

The Department of Public Health stresses Narcan is not the solution, but can temporarily reverse and opioid overdose until emergency personnel arrive.