State prepares for distribution of third COVID vaccine

By: 
Travis Fischer

As Monday marks one year since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Iowa, the state is looking ahead at getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

A third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson has received emergency approval by the FDA, and the first shipment has already been sent to Iowa for distribution.

Being a one-shot vaccine that can be stored at conventional temperatures, the J&J vaccine is being allocated to Iowa’s essential workers. Iowa’s initial allotment of 25,600 doses has been reserved for the employees of 51 large manufacturing companies in 17 counties.

While seniors, first responders, and child care workers continue to receive the two dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the comparative ease of distributing the J&J vaccine will make the vaccination process less disruptive for the manufacturing environment.

During her regular press conference on Wednesday, March 3, Governor Kim Reynolds addressed some of the concerns that have been raised about Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Particularly regarding its reported lower efficacy rate compared to its two-dose contemporaries.

“Unfortunately, some critics are suggesting that the J&J vaccine is somehow inferior to those from Pfizer and Moderna because its efficacy rate is lower. This information is misleading, and quite frankly it’s irresponsible to position any vaccine as a less desirable option when it’s undergone the same clinical trials to test its safety and efficacy,” said Reynolds. “As you’re weighing your options for vaccination, it’s important that you are getting your information from credible sources.”

To better explain, Reynolds invited Dr. Pat Winokur, the Executive Dean of the University of Iowa’s college of medicine to better explain the effectiveness of the J&J vaccine.

“People have gotten caught up on that 70%,” said Winokur. “We look at flu vaccines every year and we’re happy to have flu vaccines, and under the best of circumstances flu vaccines are 70% effective. We know though that those flu vaccines make a huge difference.”

Winokur noted that the J&J vaccine has been exceptionally successful in preventing COVID-19 symptoms from becoming so severe that it requires hospitalization and that its testing environment may have been handicapped due to the presence of coronavirus variations.

To demonstrate her confidence in the J&J vaccine, Reynolds herself received the shot live on stage.

“I wouldn’t ask Iowans to do anything that I’m not willing to do,” said Reynolds.

In other vaccination matters, to facilitate seniors that have had trouble scheduling an appointment to receive their vaccine, Reynolds announced the creation of a team of “vaccine navigators.”

Starting Tuesday, March 9, seniors 65 and older will be able to call 211, where someone will help them set up an appointment at their nearest Hy-Vee.

Also, as of Monday, March 8, Iowans under 64 years old with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will be eligible for the vaccine.

The state of Iowa administered 187,664 doses of vaccine in the last week totaling 892,815 doses of vaccine to 860,517 residents. This includes 480,137 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 412,678 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Reynolds addressed an issue with vaccine reporting, which showed the state struggling with getting people their second dose of vaccination. Reporting showed that roughly 12% of Iowa’s first doses were overdue for their second shot, however this appears to have been because of a record keeping error in how pharmacy forms were being read, preventing second shots from being properly counted.

“The issue should be resolved, and doses should be reported soon,” said Reynolds.

The adjustment increased the number of individuals completing their vaccinations last week by 101,379, presumably correcting the backlog of unreported doses, bringing the total to 280,254 completed vaccinations.

As of Sunday, March 7, there have been 339,670 individuals positive with COVID-19 in the state, increasing the 336,456 total from the week prior by 3,214, a slight down tick in new cases from the previous week.

The state has performed a total of 4,146,230 tests on 1,577,937 individuals since the pandemic began, including 2,755,859 PCR tests and 1,390,371 antigen tests. In the last week, the state has processed 47,118 PCR tests and 46,336 antigen tests.

The state has also stopped reporting on the number of individuals considered recovered, making it impossible to know current number of active cases at the moment.

In the last week, 10% of new cases have been among the elderly (age 80+), 15% among older adults (60-79); 27% among middle aged adults (40-59); 42% among young adults (18-39); and 4% among children.

113,797 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 19,730, about 17%, have tested positive for antibodies.

Of the 1,818 individuals tested in the last week, 1,171 of them (64%) have tested positive.

Hospitalizations continue to be on the decline, with 168 hospitalized as of Sunday, down 29 from the week prior, and 37 in an ICU.

Reported deaths saw a decline last week. An additional 87 deaths have brought the statewide total to 5,558.

In total, approximately 3,279 elderly (59%); 1,905 older adults (34.28%), 326 middle aged adults (5.88%), 45 young adults (.81%), and at least one child (.04%) have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

In long term care facilities, 54 new deaths have been reported, bringing the total to 2,193.

The number of facilities reporting outbreaks dropped significantly last week with just ten now considered to be in outbreak status, down nine from the week prior. These facilities have 141 positive cases among residents and staff with 66 considered recovered.

 

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