Iowa’s COVID-19 vaccinations rise slightly, questions over state data remain

By: - August 13, 2021 2:54 pm

Reports vary on whether half of Iowans are vaccinated for COVID-19. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury)

Iowa has seen a small uptick in COVID-19 vaccinations in the past week as the delta variant continues to worry many and the school year approaches, according to Washington Post data.

Iowa administered 4,600 doses per day over the past week, up 5%, the Post reported.

Yet after months of giving a rosier picture than other sources on Iowa’s COVID-19 data, the state’s official COVID website now suggests Iowa isn’t as far along on vaccinations as the Post and New York Times are reporting. 

State data don’t match national reports

Iowa last updated its coronavirus website Wednesday. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 47.6% of Iowans were fully vaccinated. That is a smaller percentage than the Post and the New York Times reported this week, based on information from state and federal health records.

The Times on Friday reported 50% of Iowans had been fully vaccinated. The Post’s figure was 50.2%. Johns Hopkins University reported 50.48% of Iowans had been fully vaccinated.

At the beginning of July, Iowa officials reported 45.8% of Iowans were fully vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Iowa has administered just under 3.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Iowa’s state website reports 3.1 million.

Sarah Ekstrand, state health department spokeswoman, said the newspapers draw from federal sources that may not have been reported to the state system. She added that there has been an uptick in vaccinations.

“On Aug. 6, for example, over 6,900 doses were administered,” Ekstrand said. “We have not seen a daily total that high since mid-June.”

The state has routinely reported different figures than other sources throughout the pandemic, and has omitted key information. The department has declined public information requests at times, leading to formal complaints.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has maintained the state has been committed to transparency and she has praised the sheer volume of information on the site.

The state recently switched from nearly hourly updates of its coronavirus data site to weekly updates that provide less information, suggesting the pandemic is waning as federal health officials sternly warn of a surge caused by the delta variant. Most of the new cases nationwide have been among the unvaccinated.

Epidemiologists fear delta variant will target children

Vaccines aren’t available for children under 12, raising epidemiologists’ concerns of a delta outbreak targeting young children.

In the past seven days, 11% of COVID-19 cases in Iowa involved children ages 17 and under and 26% were people ages 18 to 29. Another 22% were in their 30s; 15% in their 40s; 10% in their 50s; 8% in their 60s; 4% in their 70s; and 4% were age 80 or older.

The Atlantic reported about a Louisiana cardiologist vacationing with eight members of her family in the Georgia mountains. All were vaccinated, but several got sick after the trip, including young children. 

In Iowa, 62% of youths ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated, while 82% of adults age 65 or older have been, the health department reported. 

State: 6,210 Iowans have died of COVID-19

Iowa’s daily average of new COVID-19 cases is up 122% in two weeks, to 696, according to the Times. But the 1,717 cases added on Wednesday, for example, was far under the nearly 5,500 new cases that were confirmed daily at times last November.

There were 391 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Iowa as of Thursday, up 67% in two weeks, the Times reported.

Since the pandemic started, 419,238 Iowans have had COVID-19, and 6,210 have died, the state health department records show.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.