Iowans get mixed messaging on COVID-19 vaccine distribution

By: - December 17, 2020 4:48 pm

A medical worker holds a vial of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of Truman Medical Centers/University Health)

The Iowa Department of Public Health announced Thursday the state will receive nearly 20% fewer COVID-19 vaccine allocations than initially expected this month.

The Centers for Disease Control advised that Iowa will receive enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for 138,300 people, according to IDPH. State officials were initially told they would have enough for 172,000 health care workers and long-term care staff and residents.

Iowa is expected to receive 73,300 vaccines the week of Dec. 20 and 138,300 the week of Dec. 27. The state already received 26,000 Pfizer vaccines this week.

Federal officials disputed any reductions in vaccine allocations, despite reports from state officials nationwide.

Despite the reduction, Iowa still plans on vaccinating long-term care staff and residents starting Dec. 28.

New COVID cases continue to drop; deaths rise

Iowa has seen a nearly straight-line drop in new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, but deaths have risen by nearly two-thirds, the New York Times reported. 

New cases fell 19% in the past 14 days, and hospitalizations dropped 33%, the newspaper reported. Deaths have risen 64% in the same period. 

On Wednesday, Iowa recorded 2,531 new cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and 17 deaths, according to the Times’ database. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 746 COVID-19 patients were in Iowa hospitals Thursday afternoon, down from 776 the day before. The number in intensive care had fallen to 146 on Thursday from 152 on Wednesday. The 95 admitted in the past 24 hours was a drop from 108 the previous period.

The state recorded 147 current outbreaks at nursing homes, which reported 5,950 cases and 1,135 deaths. 

The number of counties with test positivity rates of 15% or higher has been falling steadily and stood at 42 Thursday. That is one of the measures the state uses to decide whether a school district will be allowed to hold classes online. 

Perry Beeman

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said reports that allocations are being reduced are “incorrect.”

“As was done with the initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine, jurisdictions will receive vaccine at different sites over several days. This eases the burden on the jurisdictions and spreads the workload across multiple days. This same process was successfully used for the initial distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine, and we are simply applying lessons learned. Operation Warp Speed is committed to delivering jurisdictions’ allocated vaccines according to their plans safely, quickly and efficiently,” according to a statement.

Pfizer also sent out a statement on Thursday saying there are no COVID-19 production issues and there are no shipment delays.

Iowa was not alone in its announcement.

Missouri’s state health department director announced the state could receive 25 to 30% less of the second dose of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine than it had anticipated.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker also said the state will now only receive “about half” of its expected doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, citing federal officials telling state leaders that allotments would be slashed nationwide.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also tweeted the state’s COVID-19 allocation will be cut by 40% next week with no explanation why.

“This is disruptive and frustrating. We need accurate, predictable numbers to plan and ensure on-the-ground success,” Inslee tweeted.

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