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'I wouldn't ask Iowans to do anything that I'm not willing to do': Gov. Reynolds receives J&J vaccine

As of Wednesday morning, 349,744 individuals have started their vaccine series and 186,759 individuals have completed the series in Iowa.

JOHNSTON, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine Wednesday morning in front of Iowans to show that this vaccine is safe and effective. 

The J&J vaccine was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration Sunday.

First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds and interim Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia also received the vaccine during a Wednesday press conference.

After getting her shot, the governor took questions from the media about the state's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 10 minutes in, Kay Henderson with Radio Iowa asked how Reynolds felt. 

"I feel fine," the governor said. "You don't really... I hardly even felt it. So I feel fine and I'm very happy to have received it."

"The addition of the J&J vaccine to our nation's national supply is truly a game-changer," Reynolds said during the press conference. "A first-dose vaccine means twice as many people can be fully vaccinated in a fraction of the time it takes to complete two doses spaced at least 21 and 28 days apart."

While some may be skeptical of the vaccine due to it only being a single dose, Reynolds assured Iowans that it is just as safe and just as effective as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which both require two doses

Dr. Pat Winokur led the team responsible for the University of Iowa study site for the Pfizer vaccine trial. She joined the governor to help explain how the new vaccine is just as good as the others. 

"I can assure you that the Johnson & Johnson studies adhere to all of the safety and efficacy standards that were acquired by FDA," Winokur said. "Also, this vaccine is about 70% effective. People have gotten caught up on that 70% versus 90% or whatever." 

"But remember, this vaccine, when you really look carefully at the data, it is exceptionally good at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations."

Winokur compared the J&J vaccine to flu vaccines, which she said are normally about 70% effective. 

"We know though that these flu vaccines make a huge difference in places like nursing homes and the spread in school systems, helping tamp down the flu spread every year," Winokur said. "But the fact that these vaccines are close to 100% effective at present preventing hospitalization, is the statistic that people should be watching because we need to protect the hospital." 

Iowa received 25,600 doses of the J&J vaccine for the week of March 1.

Reynolds said those doses are going to 51 companies in 17 counties to vaccinate essential workers. 

Reynolds said the state has about 30,000 workers in these facilities. 

Reminder: 2-1-1 call center can't schedule appointments for those 65 and older until March 9

The governor took time to remind Iowans the 2-1-1 call center is stepping up to help older Iowans navigate scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

The team will be expanded by 75 "vaccine navigators" to help those 65 and older find appointments. Those who call 2-1-1 will be set up with an appointment at a nearby Hy-Vee. 

According to 2-1-1 Director Melissa McCoy, Iowans will be able to schedule both their first and second-dose appointments. 

"You should plan to arrive at your appointment at least 10 minutes early and bring your Medicare or insurance card if possible," McCoy said. "Remember, there is no cost to you the individual who is receiving the vaccine." 

Those that need to cancel or reschedule their appointment will need to call the Hy-Vee location directly, McCoy said. 

McCoy added they've had "tremendous luck" in reaching out to the local Area Agency on Aging to help folks sign up for their appointment. 

"They were happy to know that their AAA's were able to pass their information on to us, and even for us to reach back out to ensure that that was a closed loop," she said.

Watch Gov. Kim Reynolds' full March 3, 2021 press conference on YouTube

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