Iowa lawmakers look to expand vaccine distribution as Fauci promises supply increase

By: - February 11, 2021 4:30 pm

Federal regulators have approved booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce for the Virginia Mercury)

Iowa lawmakers are looking toward new ways of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine as U.S. experts promise an increase in the vaccine supply is around the corner.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Today Show” Thursday that he expects April to be “open season” for everyone to get a vaccine. 

“As we get into March and April, the number of available doses will allow for much more of a mass vaccination approach, which is really much more accelerated than what you’re seeing now,” he said. 

Fauci predicts the manufacture of vaccines will accelerate over the next few months. That would be welcome news for Iowa, where state leaders have expressed frustration with inadequate allocations from the federal government.

Under a bill moving through the House, Iowa could have more avenues to distribute vaccinations as supply increases. On Thursday, the Human Resources Committee passed House Study Bill 71, a bill that would allow dentists to administer flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines. The bill is now eligible for consideration by the full House.

Dentists would complete a four-hour training program to be eligible to give the vaccine. Dental hygienists could not administer the vaccine under the current bill.

Advocates for House Study Bill 71 said dentists could increase access to the vaccine as more doses become available. Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, said in a January subcommittee that his pharmacy had been “overrun” with people wanting the vaccine. 

“There are not enough vaccinators here in the state of Iowa (to) handle the need we are going to have,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne said in a Thursday call with reporters that she would be speaking with the Biden administration about increasing vaccine allocation to Iowa.

“We’ve got to fight tooth and nail to make sure that we’re getting what we need,” she said.

As supply ramps up, logistics is the next hurdle

Fauci cautioned that, even after vaccine production ramps up, it will take several months to handle the logistics of getting everyone a second dose. He said that the country could have most people vaccinated by late summer.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that the launch of a centralized COVID-19 vaccine scheduling system in Iowa is still weeks away. Currently, Iowans may need to check multiple websites to schedule an appointment.

Reynolds said the state is also looking for contract nurses or other qualified providers to help administer the vaccine statewide. The Iowa National Guard, which assists with COVID-19 testing, may also assist.

To track completed vaccinations, the Human Resources Committee also moved House File 169, a bill that would require health professionals to report vaccinations to a statewide immunization register. 

Iowa has ranked among the lowest states in terms of vaccine allocations and distributions. As of Thursday, a total of 540,375 vaccine doses had been delivered to Iowa. Of those, data from the Centers for Disease Control show that 368,759 doses have been administered.

According to the New York Times, 8.5% of Iowa’s population has received their first dose of the vaccine. Reynolds said Wednesday that Iowa was averaging 15,000 injections a day.

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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.