Iowa accelerates its vaccine rollout, but only Alabama is moving slower

Des Moines Public Schools and MercyOne held their first vaccination clinic for teachers and staff on Feb. 6, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Des Moines Public Schools)

Iowa is making strides in the administration of coronavirus vaccines, but it continues to rank among the states with the slowest rollout.

As of Monday, 510,550 vaccine doses had been delivered to the state of Iowa, but only 345,350 shots, or 67% of the available vaccines, had been administered to people. That represents a significant improvement from the 59% reported late last week, but other states appear to be doing a better job of accelerating the pace of vaccinations.

The latest data from both the New York Times and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that as of Monday afternoon, Iowa had delivered at least one dose of the vaccine to 8% of its population. Among the 50 states, only Alabama has a lower rate of delivery — although Kansas, Rhode Island and Missouri are tied with Iowa at 8%.

Iowa’s low ranking is all the more striking because it has one of the nation’s oldest populations, and throughout the nation the elderly are among the first authorized recipients of the vaccine, along with health care providers and first responders.

Iowa continues to fare better when measured against other states for the delivery of two shots of the vaccine. As of Monday, 2.8% of the state’s population had been given two shots of the vaccine, which is close to the national average of 2.9%.

Last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed frustration with the amount of vaccine delivered to the state, saying Iowa is not yet where it needs to be in terms of getting vaccines into the arms of Iowans.

Nationally, 32.3 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including about 9.5 million people who have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The CDC estimates that at the current rate, it will likely be months before the population presently approved for the vaccine — generally, people over 65, as well as health care workers, first responders, teachers and meatpacking workers — is fully vaccinated.

On Monday, Iowa reported 284 new infections and zero additional deaths related to the virus. In Iowa, death numbers reported on Monday typically are much lower than expected due to incomplete reporting over the weekend.

The average number of virus-related deaths reported each day in Iowa, after showing a dramatic increase last week, has fallen sharply. In the past week, the number of deaths reported each day in Iowa dropped by almost 52% over the previous week, which saw a 400% increase in deaths from the week before. It’s unclear whether recurring changes in the way the state calculates and publicly reports information on deaths has contributed to the significant fluctuation in those numbers.

Over the past week, the state has averaged 740 new cases of coronavirus each day, a decrease of 35% from the average two weeks ago. While virus-related hospitalizations continue to fall in Iowa — over the past seven days, they’ve dropped 13.6% from the previous week — the state’s positivity rate remains high at 26.4%, and is continuing to inch upward.

Currently, there are 43 active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, the same as reported late last week, but the number with of infections associated with those outbreaks grew from 1,331 on Friday to 1,384 on Monday.

To date, 2,095 Iowa nursing home residents have died of the virus; the state has refused to disclose the number of nursing home workers who have died of the virus.

Overall, there have been at least 324,907 cases of the virus in Iowa since the beginning of the pandemic, along with 5,110 deaths, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker.