Twenty-one county health departments turned down their state COVID-19 vaccine allocations this week, the state health director said.
Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said it is unclear if those counties have a lack of demand for the vaccine. It’s possible people are going to private pharmacies that get their vaccines directly from the federal government, she said.
“There are still supplies out there,” Garcia said after Gov. Kim Reynolds’ news conference Wednesday.
Garcia said said the state now is focusing to some degree on specific populations such as homebound elderly residents and those working or living at juvenile detention facilities, for example. The state also is backing special mass vaccination events, she added.
Reynolds said the state will shift vaccines to high-demand counties if needed to ensure the vaccines don’t expire.
“We will if we have to,” Reynolds said. She added the state would consider encouraging people to go to the counties with extra vaccines to get their shots.
“We just can’t be sitting on it,” Reynolds said. “We are still going to do everything we can to meet the need. In our larger cities, the need is still there.”
Health department spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand said counties are asked to decline allotments in any week they don’t think they can use all the vaccines. They will continue to be offered future allocations weekly.
Counties that declined the allocation ordered on April 8 were: Adair, Cass, Clay, Crawford, Davis, Decatur, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Humboldt, Jackson, Jefferson, Keokuk, Kossuth, Lyon, Osceola, Sac, Union, Webster, Winnebago and Woodbury.
Garcia said it is important for all Iowans to get vaccinated, and quickly, as variants of the virus that spread faster now dominate the state.
“We have to be fast about this,” Garcia said.