JOHNSTON, Iowa — Starting April 5, all Iowans will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine if allocation rates continue to increase, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday.
Iowa will get the same number of vaccine doses next week as the state did this week, but the federal government is projecting "a significant increase in weekly supply," she noted at a press conference.
The increase includes 20 million doses to be dispersed across the nation.
"We've proven that we can manage the virus while responsibly moving ahead with our lives as vaccine supply increases, getting life back to normal finally becomes possible," Reynolds said. "All these things are possible, and soon. But like everything else over this past year, it will depend on all of us doing our part for the greater good."
Recent polls show vaccine hesitancy is falling overall. However, opposition among Republicans remains high.
When asked what she thought, the Republican governor encouraged everyone to get the vaccine when they can.
"I think it's the right thing to do for the greater good. It's a personal decision, individuals will make that decision," Reynolds said. "I think it is important to get the vaccine. It's why I got the vaccine, it's why [First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds] got the vaccine. So we'll continue to educate Iowans on why it's important, why they're safe and why it's the right thing to do."
According to allocation data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Iowa will receive a total of 76,120 vaccine doses for the week of March 22:
That's the same number of doses the state is expected to receive this week.
The single-dose J&J vaccines will be given to Iowans who work in food processing, production, distribution and manufacturers as planned. So far, about 50,000 of the 160,000 workers in this group have been vaccinated.
Reynolds said the state had initially projected it would take five weeks to vaccinate this population.
"However, with the number of employers that are now taking the initiative to schedule clinics with other providers, we really could complete this phase of vaccination even sooner," she said.
Of course, that all depends on if supply can meet demand.
"I'm proud to start this morning by saying Iowa continues to gain momentum in our recovery from COVID-19," the governor said Wednesday. "Our 14-day and seven-day statewide average positivity rate are at 3.9%. COVID hospitalizations are down 90% from the peak in November, and as of yesterday, only one long-term care facility remains on the outbreak list."
No additional cases at long-term care facilities have been reported since Feb. 17.
"We anticipate that just days from now, not a single long-term care facility will be an outbreak status, something that hasn't occurred since the first outbreaks were reported in early April of last year," Reynolds said.
As far as vaccinating residents and employees at these facilities, Iowa is almost done.
Reynolds said every facility in the state will have completed the federal vaccination program by the end of March. 90% of residents and 60% of staff have already been vaccinated, she added.
The state has not disclosed the vaccine refusal rates at privately-run nursing homes, but Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said it's because the state doesn't have that information.
"So we disclose vaccination rates at the facilities that we own and operate. So Glenwood, Woodward, the Veterans Home, and we've made that decision because the state operates those facilities," Garcia said. "There's not a requirement to report [private nursing home] information to the state, not to DHS, not to DIA and not to the Department of Health."
"At any point in time, if the federal government decides to take that information, we would reassess at that time."
The governor said her administration is seeing "positive results" from the 2-1-1 line that started helping older Iowans find vaccine appointments last week.
"2-1-1 has scheduled more than 3,000 appointments for Iowans aged 65 and older at Hy-Vee pharmacies," Reynolds said. "As with any scheduling situation, appointments are limited to the number of vaccine doses that are available, so there are times when appointments fill up in some areas and callers are asked to try again later."
Hy-Vee and 2-1-1 are working together to fix situations like that "almost as soon as it occurs," according to the governor.
Hy-Vee will be holding vaccine clinics in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids this week, with 400 individuals in the Des Moines area and 240 individuals in the Cedar Rapids area set to be vaccinated.
The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Tuesday that the data center that houses the Iowa Immunization Registry Information System experienced a hardware malfunction, impacting vaccine data.
The malfunction made it so vaccine providers weren't able to report COVID-19 vaccine administration to IRIS. Vaccine data on the state's dashboard was delayed as well as vaccine data entry.
IDPH said Wednesday the issue has since been resolved, with an update to the state's website expected "around" noon Wednesday.
Watch the press conference on Local 5's YouTube channel
Last week, the state reached the 1 million mark for COVID vaccine doses administered.
President Joe Biden also announced his goal to open eligibility up for all adult Americans to sign up for the vaccine by May 1.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, 1,113,988 total doses have been administered in the state. A total of 1,070,904 have been administered to Iowans.
317,316 individuals have started their two-dose vaccine series while 383,460 have completed their full two-dose series. The state's website says 29,752 people are fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
413,212 individuals total have been fully vaccinated by the state of Iowa.
343,912 Iowans have tested positive for the virus and 5,657 have died.