Reynolds: Iowans 65 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting Feb. 1

By: - January 21, 2021 2:24 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses COVID-19 vaccine allocation at a news conference Jan. 21, 2021 at Iowa PBS. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS)

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday Iowa will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to residents age 65 and older starting Feb. 1 — but there’s no guarantee how long they will need to wait for shots to become available.

The national vaccine supply remains limited, she said. “While we’re excited to begin vaccinating a broader population of Iowans, we again need to emphasize that the demand for the vaccine will vastly exceed our supply,” Reynolds said during a news conference.

Iowans “will need to be patient,” she said. “Vaccines are coming and there’s good news on the horizon but it’s just going to take some time.”

Iowa ranks 46th in the nation in the number of doses allocated to the state by the federal government, Reynolds said. The state is receiving about 19,500 doses of vaccine per week. Reynolds said she doesn’t know why Iowa, which has a high proportion of older residents, is not receiving more vaccines.

The Trump administration anticipated the state’s allocation would increase to 39,000 a week beginning the week of Feb. 8 and would continue to increase by 10,000 doses each week through March 1, she said. But that could change now that the Biden administration is rolling out its own plan.

“Here in Iowa, I am proud of the progress that we’re making,” Reynolds said. “We’re doing a lot with relatively little vaccine.”

Reynolds said Iowa ranks 15th in the country in terms of the share of available vaccines that have been administered. States are unable to order additional vaccines, she said, adding there has been some confusion on that point caused by conflicting reports.

As of Friday morning, she said, Iowa had received 160,000 first doses of the two-dose vaccine regimen and had administered 106,000 of those. Most of those have gone to the state’s health care workforce.

More than 22,000 health care workers have also received their second dose. Reynolds said the state will start reporting data on vaccine allocation next week on its coronavirus website.

However, she said, implementation of the federally administered program using national pharmacy chains to vaccinate residents and workers in long-term care facilities has been “slower than anticipated.” Nearly 116,000 doses have been allocated for Iowa.

“We’ve been assured by the providers that first doses will be completed statewide by the end of the month and we continue to monitor that daily,” she said.

Reynolds also provided an outline of the priority assigned to certain “essential workers” for vaccine eligibility, with law enforcement, first responders, educators and child care workers at the top of the list. Here’s an outline of the expected order of priority for vaccinations, based on age, vulnerability and risk of exposure. The size of the groups are approximate and based on census data, according to Iowa Department of Public Health:

Feb. 1: Over 500,000 Iowans age 65 and older.

Early February:  Tier 1, about 130,000 Iowans including law enforcement and first responders, pre-K-12 teachers and staff, early childhood educators and child-care workers.

Timing still to be determined, based on the availability of the vaccine:

  • Tier 2, about 600,000 frontline essential workers in food, agriculture and manufacturing sectors who live and work in “non-social-distanced settings,” as well as individuals with disabilities living in home settings.
  • Tier 3, about 13,000 staff and individuals in congregate settings not already covered and government officials, including “staff engaged in business at the state Capitol.”
  • Tier 4, about 1,500 inspectors responsible for health, life and safety.
  • Tier 5, about 13,000 correctional facility staff and incarcerated people.

Counties will have the flexibility to set priorities based on needs and supplies, according to Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia. She encouraged Iowans to watch for local public health social media updates instead of calling for schedules and locations for vaccination.

For Iowans not in a priority group, Garcia said some will receive the vaccine in their workplace or through local public health agencies, health care providers or pharmacies.

However, state officials have not established a centralized process for notifying or scheduling individual Iowans to receive the vaccine.

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