Iowa asks feds to withhold nearly 21,000 doses of COVID vaccine, as demand for the shots ebbs
Iowa officials have asked their federal counterparts to withhold nearly 22,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine that were to be shipped to the state in the coming week.
"Along with several other states, we are seeing a slowdown of vaccine administration, but we are working with our local partners and community leaders to determine where additional education is needed and to gain an understanding of the needs of each county's unique population," Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the state health department, wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register.
Ekstrand said the state declined to accept 18,300 of 34,300 doses of Moderna vaccine it was expecting to receive in the week starting April 26, and 3,510 of 46,800 doses of Pfizer vaccine.
The state allotment does not include thousands of other vaccine doses federal officials are distributing directly to many Iowa pharmacies and some clinics.
Nearly 55% of Iowa adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 40% have been fully vaccinated against the disease, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Saturday afternoon.
But demand has ebbed since surging in early April, when the state opened eligibility to everyone 16 or older. During the week of April 5, the state hit a record of 50,862 vaccinations in a single day, according to the state health department website. The next week, the highest daily total was 36,206, and by last week, the highest daily total was just 28,914.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that 43 of the state's 99 counties had declined all or part of their weekly vaccine allocations for the week of April 26.
Reynolds acknowledged demand is waning, and she urged the public to continue seeking the shots' protection from the deadly disease.
"I want to appeal to everyone who's hesitating," the governor said at her weekly news conference. "If you're opting to wait and see, what are you waiting for? If you've been a hard 'no' from the start, what's your reason? And if you can't answer those questions, maybe, we hope, that you take the time to reconsider."
On Friday, federal experts decided to end a pause in administration of the Johnson & Johnson version of the shots. The temporary suspension was due to a very rare but serious blood-clotting complication experienced by a few women, none in Iowa.
"We are hopeful that lifting the pause of the J&J vaccine will also contribute to more vaccines being administered in the state in the weeks to come," Ekstrand wrote Saturday. "We want to vaccinate as many Iowans as possible while doing everything we can to avoid vaccines sitting on shelves. The remaining doses from our allocation will be held in Iowa's reserve for use as needed at a later date."
Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8449.