Iowa still among the slowest of states in delivering two shots of COVID-19 vaccine

Syringes are prepped with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before being administered at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Va., Feb. 2, 2021. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury)

Iowa is continuing to accelerate the process of administering the COVID-19 vaccine, but it still is playing catch-up to other states.

When it comes to the percentage of a state’s population that has received two shots of the vaccine, Iowa ranks near the bottom, at 4.8%. Among the states, only Utah, Alabama and Illinois rank lower, according to both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Iowa does, however, compare well to the other states when measured by the percentage of population to have received at least one shot of the vaccine. By that measure, only 10 states rank better than Iowa.

As for the spread of the virus, Iowa reported 38 additional coronavirus deaths and 447 new infections Tuesday. Over the past week, the state has averaged 480 new cases per day, a decrease of 33% from the average two weeks earlier.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Iowa had reported at least 333,383 cases of coronavirus and 5,400 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the New York Times’s COVID-19 database.

To date, Iowa has administered at least 457,493 first doses of the vaccine, covering 80.1% of the population that is prioritized and eligible to receive the vaccine, and 14.5% of the state’s overall population. At least 151,431 Iowans have been fully vaccinated.

By some calculations, Iowa currently has the highest COVID-19 risk of any state in the nation. However, that ranking is based on data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, which acknowledges that there was a recent, artificial spike of almost 27,000 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa due to changes in how the state chooses to report positive cases.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has said that it is now calculating Iowa’s positivity rate by dividing the number of positive tests over a two-week period with the total number of tests during that same time period. Before, Iowa’s 14-day positivity rate was computed by taking the number of individuals who tested positive for the virus and dividing that number with the total number of people who had received a test.

While the change in methodology has produced a dramatically lower positivity rate for Iowa, moving it from 26% to just over 4%, it has also caused an artificial spike in the total number of cases reported, making state-to-state comparisons difficult.

The CSSE says that by reporting test results now, rather than individual cases of the virus, Iowa has increased its total COVID-19 case numbers by 26,775. The newly recognized test results either are unassociated with a known case of COVID-19, or they represent multiple positive test results for the same individuals, the CSSE says.