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Iowa Receives First Shipment Of COVID-19 Vaccines

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics ER Nurse David Conway receives the hospital's first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 14.

Days after the Pfizer vaccination was granted emergency authorization use by the FDA, Iowa hospitals received their first shipments.

Shortly after the first COVID-19 vaccinations arrived in Iowa, some hospitals started sending out footage of health care workers unloading vials into ultra-cold freezers and vaccinating frontline workers.

ER nurse David Conway was the first frontline worker to receive the vaccine at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which received 975 doses of the vaccine Monday morning.

"I'd like my colleagues to know it was fast, it was painless, and it's the right thing to do," Conway said, in a video statement released by UIHC.

State officials announced earlier this month that the state expects to receive 172,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this month. The FDA approved emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and older on Friday and is expected to review Moderna's emergency authorization request this week.

The first doses are going to health care workers, followed by residents and staff at the state's 432 nursing homes at the end of this month.

UIHC said it had already vaccinated more than 100 of its nearly 17,000 workers Monday and expects to have nearly 1,000 vaccinated by the end of the week.

One of the first employees to receive a vaccine was University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Executive Dean Patricia Winokur, who oversaw UI’s Pfizer vaccine trial.

University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Executive Dean Pat Winokur, who oversaw UI's Pfizer vaccine trial, receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in the state on Dec. 14.

She said it was an emotional experience getting the vaccine.

"It's an honor to have been part of this trial. This one's in the history books," she said "I don't think there's anything that we're going to see going into the history books and medicine [that] is going to surpass this for quite some time."

UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said recently the rate of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have declined to a "very manageable level." He said the spike in hospitalizations last month severely strained the hospital's staffing resources.

But Gunasekaran warned Iowans that it’s important Iowans continue to follow public health recommendations to slow the spread of the virus until the vaccine can be widely distributed.

"We know that supply means that it's going to take us the better part of the year to get it out to all Iowans and get it out to all Americans," he said. "And the last thing we would want is for the introduction of the vaccine to cause Iowans to take this less seriously."

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter