Johnson County has highest vaccine rate in Iowa, but cases are still a concern

Despite the county’s high vaccination rates, a rise in cases because of the delta variant has lead public health experts to fear for unvaccinated communities.


Jerod Ringwald

The Johnson County Administration Building is seen in Iowa City on Monday, Aug. 1, 2021.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

Johnson County is leading the state of Iowa in vaccination rates, but rising cases are still a cause concern among local health officials.

As of Aug. 20, 72 percent of adults age 18 and older in Johnson County are fully vaccinated.

“Johnson County has the highest vaccination rate in the state due to our amazing partnerships across all sectors,” Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Jarvis credited Johnson County as a “health care hub” in Iowa, writing that county residents have understood the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Having some of the first persons to get vaccinated in the state also played a part because all of those persons were then able to speak to their experience,” Jarvis wrote.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law preventing government entities from mandating masks in May, but the Iowa City government announced a citywide mask mandate on Aug. 19,  as previously reported by the DI.

Susan Vileta, public information officer and health educator for Johnson County Public Health, said she has watched social media and news reports and noticed that—in other areas around the state—public input on vaccination efforts is harsher than what she has seen in Johnson County.

As of Aug. 10, Johnson County has an 82 percent vaccination rate in adults ages 26 and above and 72.5 percent in teens 12 and above, Vileta said.

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She said people ages 26 and older are the cut-offs for vaccination data because some UI students’ vaccine records were sent to their hometowns instead of Johnson County.

“We’re not super confident about the data on those 18 to 24-year-olds,” Vileta said.

While the county’s vaccination rates are high, so are positive COVID-19 cases.

As of Aug. 5, Johnson County became a high transmission area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Data Tracker.

Data visualization by Kelsey Harrell/The Daily Iowan

“The amount of people that were positive for COVID at about this time last year was very similar to this year,” Vileta said.

Vileta added that the delta variant is much more transmissible, so it could more heavily impact communities with the lowest vaccination rates.

Iowa reported that cases per 100,000 people went up 6 percent the week of Aug. 13 compared to the previous week, according to the CDC. Data reported by the CDC also shows that 50 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Jarvis wrote that, while Johnson County is seeing high numbers of cases reported despite a higher vaccination rate, there could still be a drop-off in cases. Johnson County Public Health is recommending individuals follow CDC guidelines.

“We’ll be recommending the recent CDC guidance for universal masking in indoor public settings while we’re seeing substantial transmission,” Jarvis wrote.

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