Reynolds: COVID-19 vaccines are, ‘in a sense,’ already accessible to all Iowans

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference March 10, 2021, at Iowa PBS. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Gov. Kim Reynolds declined Wednesday to speculate as to when all Iowans will be designated eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, but said that “in a sense” that has already happened given the number of Iowans who can at least claim to be eligible.

Reynolds comments came during a news conference at Iowa PBS. Reynolds was asked why Iowa hasn’t expanded access to all residents of the state, given the fact that vaccine recipients don’t have to prove they are among those deemed eligible — a group that currently includes any adult with an underlying or chronic condition.

“I think we have a good process in place and as we see those numbers continue to increase and we continue to open up and vaccinate more and more Iowans, we’ll take that next step,” she said. “But right now, because of the progress that we’ve made with (Iowans) 65 and up, and because we’ve had 70% of our first responders, day care providers and teachers that have been vaccinated, we are now able to open it up to our essential workforce, manufacturing, as well as individuals who are homebound due to disabilities, and individuals 18 to 64 with underlying conditions. And, honestly, that’s a large segment of our population. And so in a sense we have somewhat done that.”

She said it’s perfectly appropriate for Iowans who can’t get a shot in their home county to look elsewhere, noting that when she was in Fort Dodge on Saturday, people from a 60-mile radius were being given the vaccine there. “People are calling and trying to figure out where they can get a vaccine, and I think they are willing to drive,” she said.

Reynolds said that contrary to some reports, Iowa is not sitting on a large stockpile of vaccines that have yet to be administered. “There’s not a surplus of vaccines in Iowa — let’s just make that clear,” she said.

The governor said as she reflects on the past year, she has thought a lot about “the Iowans we lost to the virus, and especially the families left behind who loved them and continue to grieve for them every day.”

She added that it’s important for Iowans to recognize how much progress the state made in responding to the pandemic, launching a test program, and then vaccinating the population.

“This week, one year from our first confirmed cases in Iowa, we are on track to vaccinate the one millionth Iowan,” she said. “Yesterday, the CDC reported Iowa had administered more than 952,000 doses (to people) 18 and up. That’s 27% of the population; we’re 10th in the nation. We’ve administered 298,000 second doses. So that’s 13% of Iowans who have been fully vaccinated, and we rank 27th in the country.”