By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio News
State officials announced Thursday that the state expects to receive its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccinations from Moderna and Pfizer this month.
State officials announced Thursday that Iowa expects to see its first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines this month, pending their approval from the FDA, with the first doses allocated to heath care workers and nursing home residents and staff.
At a press conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state is expecting to receive 172,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December. The vaccines, which the companies say are more than 90 percent effective, are currently waiting on approval for emergency use from the FDA.
Reynolds said the state is following recommendations from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group to administer the first doses to health care workers and residents and staff of nursing homes.
Reynolds said numbers and dates are approximations at this time and subject to change, but the state anticipates receiving 26,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine around Dec. 13, followed by another 31 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 54,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine the week Dec. 20 and then another 95,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 77 doses of the Moderna vaccine the week of Dec. 27.
Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said portions of the first shipment of vaccinations around Dec. 13 will go to six health care sites in “major metropolitan areas,” though the location of those sites will not be publicly released “to ensure the safe distribution of this limited resource.”
She said the next shipment of vaccinations the week of Dec. 20 will start going to long-term care facilities.
Garcia said the state has secured 39 locations to accommodate the ultra-cold storage requirement of -94 degrees of the Pfizer vaccination. She said the Moderna vaccination only needs to be stored at -4 degrees and is stable at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days.
Both vaccinations also require a second dose to be administrated either 21 or 28 days after the first.
Garcia said the state has been assured by the federal government that second doses will arrive for those who receive an initial dose, meaning the first shipments can be given to 172,000 individuals.
“The individuals who receive this initial phase will need a second round. But we have confirmation through our planning numbers that that will come within the timeframe that they need it 21 days and 28 days,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the state has opted to take part in the federal government’s pharmacy partnership program. This means several large national chain pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS will help with the distribution of the vaccine.
Garcia said the state will create a team of experts to assist in determining which groups will receive priority next. She said it will likely include those who live in other congregate settings like assisted living facilities, prisons and community homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“As more COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, additional populations will be added and more people will be able to receive the vaccine,” she said. “We anticipate that by mid 2021, there should be enough vaccine available for anyone who wants to receive it.”
The news comes as Iowa saw a surge in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the month of November. On Wednesday morning, the state confirmed an additional 70 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24-hour period, a new record.
More than 600 Iowans died from the virus and more than 100,000 new infections were reported in November, more than any other month of the pandemic so far.
As of Thursday afternoon, the state was reporting a record high 170 long-term care facilities had an active outbreak, defined as three or more residents testing positive.
Reynolds urged Iowans to continue to follow public health precautions as “it will take a little more time before the vaccines are widely available” but declined to say whether she would extend mitigation efforts, including a partial indoor mask mandate, that expires Dec. 10.
“So we’re just going to continue to monitor those [numbers] and see what we’re seeing. And we’ll address that later on. But we’re monitoring it very, very carefully, to see if we’re gonna see any impact from the holidays and the numbers. So far, we’ve been holding steady and still seeing a decline,” she said.