Gov. Kim Reynolds expects Iowa to surpass 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by end of week
During her weekly COVID-19 news conference on March 10, 2021, Gov. Kim Reynolds says the state on track to give 1 million vaccination doses. Des Moines Register
As Iowa crosses the one-year anniversary of its first positive cases of coronavirus, it is on track to hit another milestone, officials said Wednesday, 1 million doses of vaccine administered by the end of the week.
"This week, as I've had a chance to reflect on the last year, I've thought a lot about the many challenges that Iowans have endured from the overwhelming sense of uncertainty about the pandemic to its direct impact on our health, employment, education and nearly every aspect of our lives," Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a news conference. "But mostly I've thought about the Iowans we've lost to the virus and especially the families left behind who loved them and continue to grieve for them every day."
Reynolds announced the first cases March 8. Since then, there have been more than 360,000 positive tests for coronavirus in the state and more than 5,500 Iowans have died from COVID-19.
The first Iowans started receiving vaccine against COVID-19 in mid December. Three months later, 27% of Iowa's population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 13% of Iowans have been fully vaccinated, Reynolds said.
"This week, one year from our first confirmed cases in Iowa, we're on track to vaccinate, the one millionth Iowan," the governor said. Her spokesperson, Pat Garrett, later clarified that she misspoke and meant to say Iowans will have received 1 million doses of the vaccine. The predominant vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer, each require two doses, taken weeks apart, to reach full efficacy.
At her news conference last week, Reynolds, her husband, and interim Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia all received shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to demonstrate their confidence in the single-dose vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, granted emergency approval at the end of February, helped push Iowa's stock of first-shot doses past the 100,000 mark last week. Iowa's supply has since fallen to about 70,000 doses this week as Johnson & Johnson ramps up its production.
State officials said Wednesday, however, Iowa should receive close 100,000 doses again next week, even with minimal Johnson & Johnson doses. Officials expect the Johnson & Johnson supply to stabilize by the end of March.
Last week, officials opened up vaccination eligibility to adults younger than 65 who have underlying health conditions.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, Iowa Department of Public Health officials announced that the state would expand eligibility criteria to include all Iowans "with medical conditions that are or may be an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19." It makes roughly half of all Iowans eligible for the still in-demand vaccine.
The announcement surprised many county public health officials, some of whom said they haven't vaccinated enough of the previously eligible populations to add extra people.
After the news conference, Iowa Department of Public Health interim Director Kelly Garcia said officials were watching vaccine administration data and saw several priority groups reaching the 70% mark of being vaccinated. Then, health officials heard about a clinic with hundreds of available appointments for vaccination Friday, but no eligible people available.
Garcia said they issued the Thursday evening announcement as part of giving that clinic the legal ability to put the vaccine into arms Friday morning.
"We need to do everything that we can to keep this vaccine moving," Reynolds said. "Nothing should unnecessarily hold up the process. So when counties are ready to move to the next eligibility tier, we must enable them to do so."
Reynolds said they are watching vaccine administration and supply to determine when to further open up eligibility, but that it's premature to open eligibility to all adult Iowans. However, she noted that expanding eligibility to include all adults with underlying health conditions covers a large swath of the population.
"I think we have a good process in place," Reynolds said. "And as we see those numbers continue to increase, and we continue to open up and vaccinate more and more Iowans, we'll take that next step."
She took no issue with Iowans who can't be vaccinated in their county seeking doses in neighboring counties. She noted that some parts of the state have been hosting regional vaccine clinics.
"People are calling and trying to figure out where they can get a vaccine and I think they're willing to drive," Reynolds said. "It's an Iowan getting a vaccine and I think that's fine."
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 305,000 Iowans have received both shots of the two-dose vaccines, and another 22,500 have received a shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. More than 925,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Iowa residents.
- COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opens to Iowans with chronic health conditions, but counties say demand still outstrips supply
- When will Polk County start vaccinating residents with chronic conditions? Officials are unsure.
Recent trends show positive tests and deaths from COVID-19 have fallen to points not seen since last summer.
Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 515-284-8361.