Reynolds: ‘Iowa is ready’ for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines when available

Iowa has ramped up the number of COVID-19 vaccinations, the state reported. (Photo by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images)

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday Iowa is ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available.

“The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine will be a significant step forward for our nation and our state,” Reynolds said. “Vaccines will reduce COVID-related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths and further advance our overall recovery to the pandemic.”

Pfizer has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of its vaccine. If approved, the company said the vaccine could be used by high-risk populations by the end of December this year. Moderna announced last week that it expects to soon seek emergency authorization for its vaccine.

A third company, AstraZeneca, has also announced positive results from clinical trials, Reynolds noted, although some have raised questions about the company’s data.

The Trump administration says it anticipates immediately distributing 22.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 15 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which would be allocated by state population.

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference Nov. 24, 2020, at Iowa PBS in Johnson. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

“Whenever the decisions regarding approval are made and distribution begins, Iowa is ready,” Reynolds said.

She said the Iowa Department of Public Health has developed a vaccination strategy in collaboration with public and private partners. She said the strategy addresses allocation, distribution, transportation, dispensing and administration of vaccines.

There are significant policy and logistical challenges in distributing vaccines when they are released, including deciding who qualifies from the initially limited supply, how to safely store and dispense the drug, and how to pay for the program.

Iowa has not publicly released a draft vaccine distribution plan since Oct. 16 but last week the Department of Public Health released a new Vaccine FAQ document. Many details, including who will receive the vaccine first, are still to be announced.

Reynolds said some details won’t be available until the FDA approves the emergency authorization, including the number of doses Iowa can expect to receive initially.

She said immediate vaccination efforts “will focus on those critical to the response, including those who provide direct care and maintain critical infrastructure and those (at) highest risk for developing serious illness from the virus.”

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Academy of Medicine are considering the prioritization of vaccine distribution while supplies are limited, she said.

In addition to their recommendations, Reynolds said, Iowa Department of Public Health and State Epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati “will also consider CDC guidelines and work with various stakeholders to implement a targeted approach for COVID-19 vaccination.”

The vaccine “brings with it the hope that life will return to normal soon,” Reynolds said. “However, it will take some time for the vaccine to become widely available. And in the meantime, we must be patient and do everything that we can to prevent getting and spreading the virus.”

Reynolds encouraged Iowans to follow the CDC’s guidelines for safe holidays.