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State Health Officials Shift COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy As Demand Wanes

The state health department says it's changing COVID-19 vaccine guidance for providers as demand decreases.
As the U.S. races to vaccinate its population, the development of better COVID-19 vaccines has already begun.

State health officials say they're changing COVID-19 vaccine guidance to providers as demand for shots continues to decrease.

Iowa health officials say they’re shifting their strategy for distributing COVID-19 vaccines as demand for the shot continues to decline.

The state accepted less than a third of its COVID-19 vaccine allocation from the federal government this week. Just two counties, Monona and Emmett, accepted their entire allocation.

Ken Sharp, who directs the state health department's acute disease prevention, emergency response and environmental health division, told the State Board of Health on Wednesday that the agency is now advising vaccine providers to prioritize vaccinating individuals over wasting doses.

"In the last three weeks, we've seen a dramatic shift in supply versus demand," he said. "Waste has become more acceptable and, in fact, a necessity, so that we can ensure the ongoing progress in getting individuals vaccinated."

The change is based on federal guidance, he said.

"What we are seeing very clearly from our federal partners is, 'do not pass up an opportunity to vaccinate any individual that is willing to obtain the vaccine' point blank," Sharp said.

Sharp said counties also have largely stopped mass vaccination clinics because attendance is low, instead focusing on smaller, more targeted clinics.

"We're transitioning really to, kind of, focused small — we'll call "micro clinics" — that are going into communities where they are meeting people where they are," he said. "And we're seeing some very good progress there."

Sharp the state will begin offering the Pfizer vaccine to all Iowa counties so they can vaccinate kids ages 12 to 17. The vaccine has not been previously offered to many counties, due to its requirement to be stored in special ultracold freezers.

According to the CDC, it can be stored between -13 degrees and 5 degrees — average freezer temperatures — for up to two weeks.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the two-dose vaccine in children ages 12 to 15 on Monday. It's previously been authorized for people 16 and older, and it is still the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for people under 18.

According to state data, more than 1.4 million Iowans have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter