Reynolds: Iowa vaccine rollout ‘not where we need to be’

By: - February 4, 2021 2:55 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference Feb. 4, 2021, at Iowa PBS in Johnson. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged Iowans’ frustration about vaccination distribution delays in a Thursday morning press conference. 

“I understand how disappointing it is when you’re finally eligible to get the vaccine, and you can’t get through to schedule an appointment,” Reynolds said. “I’m asking Iowans to please keep in mind that, while vaccine supply is limited, appointments will also be limited.”

Since mid-December, nearly 276,000 doses have been administered to Iowans. 137,000 people have received their first shot and 70,000 are fully immunized with both doses. That means about 6% of Iowa’s population has their first shot, according to a Jan. 31 Centers for Disease Control report.

Reynolds, a Republican, said Iowa ranks 47th for federal allocations of the vaccine per capita, and 46th for the administration of the shots to residents.

“We’re averaging about 60% on getting the vaccines administered and that’s not where we need to be,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said she would call the White House again about receiving more doses of the vaccine. Meanwhile, she said, state administrators will work with counties and vaccine providers to understand the “barriers” to vaccine administration.

Iowa entered phase 1B for vaccine distribution on Feb. 1. This phase lowers the eligible age to 65. Certain professions are also prioritized, beginning with school staff and first responders. Several different groups offer the vaccinations, from county health departments to local pharmacies. School districts have partnered with health organizations to set up clinics specifically for teachers.

Signing up for a vaccine can be complicated: Due to a limited number of doses, Iowans may need to check several websites repeatedly to find an available dose. Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Thursday that half of Iowa’s 1,700 vaccine providers are free to deny coronavirus shots to people who aren’t already customers or patients.

“I recognize that the vaccine process isn’t as fast or easy as many of us would like it to be,” Reynolds said. She said the state was seeking a vendor to create a centralized, online scheduling tool to assist Iowans in signing up for a shot.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the vaccine rollout in a Thursday morning meeting with reporters. 

“I have calls from people crying because they can’t figure out vaccines … This is a mess,” Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said. “There’s been no clear communication about all of this.”

House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City said that he had seen no statewide information campaign about the vaccine distribution plan, that Republican leadership had been inadequate. From Republican lawmakers, he said, just one bill has been introduced to address the pandemic: House File 328, which would mandate a public awareness campaign on vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

“We have seen nothing that can be seen as a way to deal with COVID,” Prichard said.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.