Vaccinations open up to those 18 and up

Thursday, April 8, 2021

DES MOINES — Iowa is still on pace to open COVID-19 vaccinations to Iowans age 18 and up beginning Monday, April 5.

Gov. Kim Reynolds reported Iowans age 16 and up can receive the Pfizer vaccine, while those age 18 and up are eligible to receive either the Moderna or J&J vaccine.

“Expanding eligibility opens the opportunity for more Iowans to be vaccinated, but it also means that more Iowans will be vying for the vaccine and appointments as they become available.

“So even though the vaccine is increasing, there still at this point, will not be enough doses to vaccine everyone immediately,” Reynolds said at her Wednesday press conference. “It will take some time to work our way through the process. Again we are asking you, please remain patient.

“Our local public health departments and vaccine providers statewide have proven time and time again, that as our system of vaccine distribution and administration continues, that system is working extremely well. So we are just waiting for those allocations to increase to states across the country,” Reynolds said.

She noted the state is also taking additional steps so those who have barriers can get help.

“211 Iowa is expanding its vaccine scheduling service to assist individuals 65 and up and also those ages 16-64 with underlying health conditions,” she said.

These are individuals again who can’t schedule an appointment on their own whether that is due to technology issues or language barriers.

“By simply dialing 211, selecting number 9, to speak with a vaccine navigator and providing some general information, they can be scheduled for an appointment at a nearby pharmacy,” she said. “In addition to scheduling at Hy-Vee stores, 211 can now schedule appointments at CPESN network pharmacies. With increasing vaccine supply and expanded assistance, I am confident everyone who wants to be vaccinated can do so.”

Reporting on numbers, Reynolds said more than 1.52 million doses of vaccine have been administered to eligible Iowans age 18 and older, with an 86 percent administration rate in the state, ranking Iowa fifth in the nation.

With 85 percent of Iowans 65 and older having at least one dose, and 603,000 Iowans fully vaccinated, about 25 percent of Iowa’s population has been fully vaccinated. The state ranks 7th in the nation for those fully vaccinated, Reynolds added.

Reynolds said she had the opportunity to visit the vaccine clinic on March 27 held at Corinthian Baptist Church, as a collaboration by the church, Broadlawns Medical Center and United Way of Central Iowa, to provide a community vaccination clinic to serve minority populations in Polk County.

“I was amazed and inspired by what I witnessed,” she said. “This partnership between faith and medical community worked and it is something we hope to replicate across the state. Members of my team and the Dept. of Public Health have connected with the four dioceses across Iowa to identify ways to support vaccination clinics for more minority and refugee communities in the coming weeks. We are also working with pastors across the state to support their needs.”

Reynolds reported the state will see a significant increase of vaccine allocation for delivery next week, especially in the J&J vaccine.

Across the country, 21.4 million doses will be delivered, plus additional J&J allocations to the federal pharmacy program.

“For Iowa, it’s our largest allocation to date, nearly 120,000 for the state, and another 41,000 for retail partners, which will total nearly 161,00 doses of vaccine.

“The state’s allocation include 45,800 doses of J&J, and so that is included in the total,” she said. “These will be directed to the remaining employee vaccine clinics. We anticipate those will be completed by the end of next week.”

Reynolds also announced the state is working with Iowa regents, private and community colleges to support the vaccine of college students and staff before they leave campus for the summer. This will protect the families upon their return home and will ensure that they have been vaccinated before coming back for the fall semester, she said.

“Next week, a small allocation will be provided to Dordt University, Northwestern College, the University of Iowa and DMACC, to begin student vaccinations,” Reynolds said. “In the weeks following, will allocate larger amounts of J&J vaccine for this purpose and provide a regular allocation to our local public health departments for local use as well.”

Iowa Department of Health Director Kelly Garcia also spoke at the press conference.

“We are making exciting progress on the vaccine front, and with nicer weather things are starting to look more closer to normal which is wonderful. However, we must still recognize that the virus is circulating in our state and we’re seeing that in the numbers,” Garcia said. “A part of the increase in positive cases that we’re seeing has to do with spring break travel and an increasing number of variants which are circulating around Iowa and across the nation and they are more contagious.

“We also know that fewer people in Iowa are being tested, so those that go get tested are doing so because they are symptomatic,” she said.

Free testing remains accessible through Test Iowa throughout the entire system they are supported by the State Hygienic Laboratory.

“For all of these reasons, it remains critically important to follow all mitigation measures that we have taken over the past year. Stay home when you are sick. Socially distance in public when you can’t mask. It is especially important that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as possible and take any vaccine that is available to them. We have the tools to stop the spread and we must use them,” she said.

Garcia noted that approximately one third of virus activity has been in the age group of 18-29. In counties where increases have been noticed, their populations are low.

A recent conversation Garcia had with young healthy individuals in that age group asked why they should get vaccinated.

“My answer is emphatically, yes you should. While you may be healthy, think about older loved ones in your life, those you work with. You don’t want to be the person to spread this virus. This is a community action,” she said.

Reynolds noted the 211 Iowa will not be taking calls on Easter Sunday, but will resume scheduling as normal on Monday.

“We continue to make incredible progress and I want to thank every Iowan for doing their part.

“So now I’m asking you to take the final step in getting life back to normal. Get vaccinated as soon as you are able and take whatever vaccine is offered. Every vaccine is safe and effective,” she said.

“I want to wish everyone a very happy and hopeful Easter. This holiday in particular symbolizes new beginnings and I think we’re on the cusp of exactly that. We’ve endured a difficult year, but we are strong and we are resilient. We are now moving ahead to better and brighter days. This weekend I hope you have the chance to spend time together with the ones you love. God bless you all,” she concluded.