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State Officials Say Iowa On Track To Begin Vaccinating Nursing Homes Next Week

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Natalie Krebs
Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a press conference Tuesday that there are bound to be "some bumps in the road" as the state rolls out the COVID-19 vaccines.

State officials say they're on track to begin vaccinating nursing home staff and residents next week after Iowa's initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccines were cut nearly 20 percent this month.

State officials say Iowa is on track to begin vaccinating the state’s nursing homes next week, even as the state’s initial allocation of vaccines has dropped nearly 20 percent.

State officials announced last week that Iowa’s allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine this month is expected to be 138,300, down from initial reports of 172,000, due to a planning error at the federal level.

This called into question whether Iowa would be able to begin vaccinating 486 nursing homes and assisted living facilities next week, as state officials initially planned.

The state is using a federal partnership with chain pharmacies CVS and Walgreens to administer the vaccinations. Under this program, the federal government was requiring states to have at least half the vaccines for nursing home residents on hand before they could begin.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said because of the error, the federal government was suspending that requirement, allowing the state to begin the week of Dec. 28 as planned.

"This flexibility is why we've been able to keep on schedule with our launch of the program, even though our initial allocations have adjusted," Garcia said.

According to the state health department, the state received 26,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine last week.

At the press conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds said as of Monday, 8,400 of Iowa's health care workers had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

She called deploying the vaccine across the state a "monumental effort" at the local, state and national level.

"There are bound to be some bumps in the road as we head down this new path and move forward," Reynolds said.

The state is expecting to receive 19,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 53,800 doses of the Modern vaccines this week. The Moderna vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the FDA on Friday.

Reynolds confirmed that the state received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine on Monday, and said it will be easier to distribute across the rural parts of the state, as it does not require the ultra-cold storage that the Pfizer vaccines does.

She said all 99 of Iowa's counties received an allocation of the Moderna vaccine in the first shipment.

Additionally, state officials addressed which groups of Iowans may be the next to receive the vaccine, following front line health care workers and nursing home staff and residents.

The CDC has recommended the next group to receive the coronavirus vaccine are those 75 and older and frontline essential workers, followed by those ages 65 to 74, as well as younger adults ages 16 to 64 with underlying conditions and other essential workers.

Garcia said the state’s newly-created infectious disease advisory council, or IDAC, still needs to make recommendations to her on how to prioritize these next groups in Iowa.

"So now IDAC is really thinking about, does it need to be further sub-prioritized? Or are there individuals missing in that list that might be Iowa-specific, like meatpacking plants?" she said.

Garcia said it's possible they may identify groups to prioritize that aren't in the CDC's sub-recommendations, such as low incomes workers with limited access to health care or may have to come up with a ranking of sub-prioritized groups as doses of the vaccine continue to come in.