Iowa receives Moderna vaccine, more than 8,000 already administered

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday that more than 8,000 Moderna vaccines have already been administered to frontline workers after receiving the shipment Monday.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Jan. 14.

Brian Grace, News reporter

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa received its first shipments of the Moderna vaccine on Monday, which is currently being distributed to healthcare facilities statewide for priority vaccinations. 

During a Tuesday press conference, Reynolds said 8,400 vaccines have already been administered in Iowa and that hospital staff statewide will be receiving the vaccine this week with long term care facility staff receiving the vaccine next week.

President and CEO of Lakes Regional Health Care Jason Harrington said during the press conference their facility was expecting its first shipment of Moderna vaccines Dec. 22, possibly before the end of the press conference. He said the facility was expecting 300 doses of the vaccine this week and an additional 200 next week that will be administered to healthcare staff.

Iowa is expected to receive 20 percent fewer vaccinations than initially planned, and Reynolds said that is because of an “unintentional planning error” that overestimated the amount of vaccines that would be delivered to Iowa. She said this was due to a planning error in Operation Warp Speed.

U.S. Army General Gustave Perna, who is in charge of national vaccine distribution, apologized publicly on Saturday for notifying multiple states, including Iowa, that due to a planning error states would be receiving fewer shipments than they had initially planned for.

“While receiving less vaccine than initially estimated is disappointing, it doesn’t change the fact that at this very moment Iowans are being vaccinated,” Reynolds said. “Two vaccines are now available in the U.S., changing the course of the pandemic as we speak, and that within a matter of just a few more months vaccines will be more widely available and life will begin to return to normal.”

Reynolds said the state received all expected doses of the Moderna vaccine.

“The plan locally is to vaccinate what I would consider patient-facing healthcare professionals in my particular hospital,” Harrison said. “That would include obviously physicians, nurses, housekeepers, food service workers, receptionists; anyone who comes face-to-face with patients throughout the day.”

Following those vaccinations, Harrison said the hospital would prioritize healthcare workers in the community, such as dentists, pharmacists, and their respective patient-facing staff. 

“Our hope is that by next week that we vaccinated the vast majority of healthcare providers in Dickinson County, and they can move on to phase two which my understanding will include firefighters, teachers, and law enforcement,” Harrison said. 

Though Iowa is receiving shipments of both the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, Harrington said there were two advantages of Moderna’s vaccine compared to Pfizer’s: the Moderna vaccine doesn’t need to be stored at extremely low temperatures and is distributed in smaller, more manageable batches. He said these two differences were significant in distributing the vaccine to rural parts of the state where storing a large amount of doses in special conditions was less than ideal.

Reynolds said the long-term care facilities were partnering with community pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens to both distribute and administer vaccines to facility staff and residents next week. She said many long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities are located in close proximity with each other, resulting in a more streamlined distribution of the vaccine to those facilities.

Iowa Veterans Home Commandant Timon Oujiri said during the conference that his facility is working with Walgreens to administer the Pfizer vaccine to their residents.

“We know that this is a great step getting beyond the virus, and our elderly population needs all of our parts to do their part,” Oujiri said. “We can’t wait for our residents to spend time with their loved ones as they had prior to this pandemic; hope is around the corner.”