Governor asks for patience ahead of vaccine phase 2

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
(Screenshot of Gov. Kim Reynolds' Jan. 21 press conference from Iowa PBS)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said, despite an uptick since the holidays, Iowa still fell short of a predicted surge in COVID-19 cases after Christmas and the New Year. She admitted Iowa did see some increases but said they were minor compared to other parts of the country, and the governor said the state's overall viral activity has been stable and improving since the holidays.

Local health officials estimated there were 62 active cases of COVID-19 in Dickinson County as of Monday. The county has confirmed at least 1,891 cases of COVID-19 since March, and so far 1,791 of them have recovered. However, health officials said 38 local residents have died because of the virus in that same time frame. The county's two-week rolling rate of positive tests dropped from 16.5 percent last week to 10.8 percent on Monday just 1 percent above where it stood on Dec. 28.

Many of Iowa's healthcare workers received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine ahead of Christmas, and state health officials expect to begin vaccinating the next priority group soon. The state plans to begin the second phase of its vaccination plan as early as Feb. 1. Reynolds said Thursday that Iowa's federal allocation of vaccines ranked 46th in the country at about 19,500 per week the 2020 U.S. Census placed Iowa's population at a little more than 3.15 million but she said the Hawkeye State's administering of the vaccine was 15th in the nation. The governor said she's very proud of the progress health providers have made with relatively few vaccines.

"As soon as our weekly vaccine allocation is received, it's going out the door and into the arms of Iowans across the state," Reynolds said.

The two major vaccines, developed by the Pfizer and Moderna pharmaceutical companies, must be administered in two doses several weeks apart. About 882 Dickinson County residents have received their first dose of vaccine, according to the latest report from Lakes Regional Healthcare. The hospital said about 213 of those have also received their second dose. About 82 percent of the state's initial doses have been given to health care providers, according to the governor. She said about 22,000 health care workers in Iowa are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. Iowa's 450-some long-term care facilities are scheduling vaccinations for residents through partnerships with pharmacy chains. Reynolds said that program is reporting slower progress than expected but made significant headway over the last two weeks. The care facilities are allocated about 116,000 doses in addition to the state's 19,500 doses, according to the governor.

"We've been assured by the providers that the first doses will be completed statewide by the end of the month, and we continue to monitor that daily," Reynolds said Thursday.

Iowa's vaccine allocation from the federal government could increase around Feb.1 and each following week, Reynolds said, but with the recent change in presidential administrations, the situation may continue to be fluid. However, the Iowa Department of Public Health is preparing to begin the second phase of the state's vaccination plan as February begins.

"This is good news and it's an important step forward, but I want to be very clear," Reynolds said. "This does not mean that we can open vaccination up to all Iowans or even that the vaccine will be immediately available to all the groups that have been prioritized in phase 1B."

The first phase of the state plane phase 1A largely focused on health care providers. The second phase has been divided into five tiers, prioritizing groups like first responders, law enforcement, educators, child care providers, essential service workers and residents of congregational housing facilities. Reynolds said the state plans to expand phase 1B to include those at least 65 years old. She said once phase 1B is complete, about half of all Iowans eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine will have been vaccinated. Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia said the state continues to focus on vaccinating elderly and at risk populations, some of whom she said do not have the option to safely remain at home.

"The demand for this phase is tremendous, and our supply remains the constraint," Garcia said during the governor's press conference. "These changes would allow for strategic use of this scarce resource while allowing local flexibility. We don't ever want supply sitting on shelves, but we want to continue to ensure thoughtful use of the vaccine that provides the greatest benefit to all Iowans."

The governor stressed demand for the vaccine will likely exceed supply for some time, and she urged patience from the public.

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