JOHNSTON -- Hundreds of thousands more Iowans are about to become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but demand for the vaccine will outweigh supply early in the process, state officials said Thursday.
Iowa will begin the second phase of its vaccination program the week of Feb. 1, at which time Iowans who work in law enforcement, emergency response, K-through-12 education, and child care will become eligible to receive the vaccine, as will any Iowans ages 65 or older.
However, the number of newly eligible Iowans -- more than 660,000, the state estimates -- will outnumber the number of vaccine doses available, according to state officials, who asked for patience from the public.
“You can see this is no small undertaking,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday during a news conference at Iowa PBS studios. “Iowans will need to be patient. The vaccines will be coming … it’s just going to take some time.”
The state is completing the first phase of its vaccine rollout, which Reynolds acknowledged has been going slower than expected. She said an insufficient allotment of vaccine doses has slowed the process of getting vaccines to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Reynolds said she has been assured that the first doses for that first phase will be completed by the end of the month. With the second doses required to be administered three or four weeks after the first, that means the first phase would be totally complete by the end of February.
Reynolds said the state receives roughly 19,500 vaccine doses per week, and that the state immediately distributes those to ensure they get to Iowans as quickly as possible. She said Iowa is receiving fewer doses per population than most states, and is working with the state’s Congressional leaders to learn why.
“It’s going to take some time there’s just not a lot of doses being allocated,” she said.
Reynolds said despite that slow rollout of the first phase, the state will begin the second phase in February. She said the prospect of new vaccines coming to the market and working with a new federal administration could boost the number of doses allotted in the coming weeks.
The second phase of the state’s vaccine distribution plan is broken into five tiers. The first tier includes all Iowans 65 years or older, plus workers in law enforcement, emergency response, K-through-12 education, and child care.
The second tier includes workers in food processing, manufacturing, agriculture, and other essential jobs where social distancing at work is difficult. The second tier also includes any Iowans living with disabilities in home settings.
The third tier includes any workers in congregate settings not covered by the previous tier, and state lawmakers and state government staff at the Iowa State Capitol.
The fourth tier includes health and safety inspectors, and the fifth tier includes staff and inmates at correctional facilities.
“We know everyone wishes this would move faster,” Kelly Garcia, interim director of the state public health department, said during the news conference. “The demand for this phase is tremendous and supply remains constrained.”
Iowans who will soon become eligible to receive the vaccine will be notified by a number of possible sources, most likely their employer, local pharmacy or local public health department.