The first 1,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine arrive at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics early Dec. 14, 2020. UI Hospitals & Clinics was the first in the state to administer the vaccine. (photo/University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics)

Kelly Garcia, Iowa Department of Public Health interim director, has added government officials to the next phase of vaccination priorities, even as many Republicans showed up for the start of the 2021 legislative session without face masks this week.

Because Republicans hold the majority in both the state House and Senate, they control the safety guidelines at the Iowa Capitol, which included neither a face mask mandate, nor requiring disclosure if a lawmaker or staff has tested positive for COVID-19. Democrats are requiring face masks in their caucus.

Related: Iowa to receive less vaccine than expected

Garcia announced Jan. 12 that government officials engaged in state business at the Iowa Capitol, including staff, would be added to Phase 1B of the Infectious Disease Advisory Council’s recommendations to ensure continuity of government.

The council had not included that category in its recommendations, but Garcia added it, along with inspectors responsible for health, life and safety.

Phase 1B also will focus on Iowans age 75 and older, as well as other high risk populations, including those “most vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19 or high-risk for illness as the result of a COVID-19 infection, with a significant focus on equity,” the department noted in a press release. “Some examples include individuals with disabilities living in home settings, correctional facilities, other congregate settings and meatpacking plant workers.”

About 300,000 to 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine are needed to complete Phase 1A in Iowa, which includes health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. The state so far has been allocated about 226,000 doses of vaccine.

According to new reports on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, just 96,686 doses had been administered as of Jan. 11, 2021, with 52,970 Moderna vaccines, 43,602 of Pfizer’s vaccine and 114 “unknown.” Updates will be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Vaccination under Phase 1B will begin no later than the first of February, according to the health department, and will take several weeks to complete. The timeline is subject to change.

“In order to assure that we are moving through the Phase 1A schedule swiftly, IDPH is monitoring allocation data and utilization rates as well as through discussions with healthcare providers to identify challenges with administration or uptake,” the press release noted.

More details will be released by the department soon on where Phase 1B populations will receive their vaccines, with many administered via employer-based clinics.

The department noted there are also approximately 1,700 enrolled vaccine providers in Iowa. Many of these providers are pharmacies and clinical offices equipped to handle screening and scheduling for vaccination efforts. County health departments may partner with these providers to ensure their residents have access to the vaccine when it becomes available.

As of Jan. 12, Iowa reported 298,065 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The same day, 4,222 Iowans have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, an increase of 83 deaths from the previous day. Due to the state’s reporting system, all of the deaths reported Jan. 12 did not happen within 24 hours.

Even as Republican leaders ignore health guidelines, the state health department noted in the press release that it “continues to urge Iowans that while the vaccine is still a scarce resource, to practice virus mitigation efforts.

  • Wear a mask or face covering
  • Practice social distancing with those outside your household
  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Stay home if you feel sick”

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