Reynolds says uncertainty leading to slow vaccine rollout

Cars are lined up at the Lee County Health Department vaccination tent at the former Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. LCHD workers vaccinated 290 individuals during the inclement weather on Thursday, and 509 at both clinics this week. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – Lee County health officials stood in the rain, then sleet, and finally snow today getting as many people vaccinated as they could get through the former Iowa State Penitentiary parking lot.

Workers with the Lee County Health Department held a second drive thru clinic vaccinating hundreds of county residents in the rough weather, while Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds showed frustration at the inconsistent numbers coming from Washington.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has Iowa listed at the 3rd worst state in the country in terms of the number of vaccines given per 100,000 people.

According to the CDC website, as of Feb. 3 Iowa had received 446,825 doses of vaccine and had administered 266,777. Just over 199,000 Iowans have had at least one dose (6,315/100,000 population) and 64,234 have received both shots in the series.

Iowa has only administered 59.7% of the vaccines they’ve received, according to the CDC.

LCHD workers check on vaccinated residents at the agency’s drive thru clinic in the former Iowa State Penitentiary parking lot as sleet started to fall Thursday morning. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Nebraska has received 114,000 doses less than Iowa, and has only given 56.6% of the doses, but is vaccinating at pace of 7,152/100,000.

West Virginia has the highest rate of vaccination. That state has received just 328,600 doses, but has given 268,065 shots for an 81.6% efficiency, and is vaccinating at a rate of more than 14,000/100,000 people.

“We’re reaching out to counties and providers to understand the barriers and we’re averaging about 60% in getting vaccines administered. We’re working on putting new metrics in place and eliminating some of the uncertainty they’ve experienced,” Reynolds said.

She said the uncertainty comes from the state not knowing more precisely what numbers of doses are coming. The state doesn’t want to find itself in the same situation as other states who are having to turn people away two and three times after appointments have been made because supplies aren’t sufficient.

Lee County Health Department administrator Michele Ross said 290 doses were administered Thursday and 189 doses were given out Tuesday for a total of 509 prime doses.

The county had a list of close to 3,300 residents 65 and older who had called in to get an appointment.

Reynolds said the state will start using some commercial pharmacy retailers next week to help get more of the state’s allotment “into the arms” of Iowans.

Only Idaho (6,001/100,000 people), Missouri (6,051/100,000) have worse performances on a per capita basis than Iowa.

“We’re trying to manage the amount we have and put strategies in place so when they do increase supplies we can streamline the process,” Reynolds said.

“Other states have done it and we believe it will be a relatively quick turnaround. We must insure when shipments received are getting to providers as fast as possible.”

Reynolds said state officials with Iowa Department of Public Health have been working with county public health agencies to identify barriers that may be slowing down the process, and are working on plans to resolve those issues.

“We know how disappointing it is when you are eligible but can’t get an appointment. Supply is limited and appointments are limited and I’m just asking Iowans to be patient,” the governor said.

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