JOHNSTON -- Five counties that had their expected doses of the COVID-19 vaccines temporarily withheld by the state will receive their full supply and are expected to again this weekend, Gov. Kim Reynolds and state public health officials said Wednesday.
Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were temporarily withheld last week in Washington, Chickasaw, Hancock, Poweshiek and Buchanan counties because they had not reached a state-established threshold for distributing the vaccine.
Reynolds said Wednesday during her weekly news conference that the decision to withhold the vaccine doses was not a punishment, but rather to ensure all doses in the state’s stockpile are immediately distributed. She said each of the five counties had several hundred unused doses of the vaccine, and that their administration rates were between 25% and 53%.
“That was not meant to be punitive. Instead, it was intended to allow local public health officials a week to administer the remaining supply of vaccine before their next shipment arrived.” Reynolds said. “With demand for vaccine far exceeding supply, there’s no reason that available doses should go unused week over week. Vaccines should be going into the arms of Iowans, not sitting in storage.”
Reynolds and state public health officials said they worked with all five counties, and they believe all five are resolving any issues and should be on track to receive their next weekly batch of vaccine doses as planned, without interruption.
“We’re working together to make that happen,” Reynolds said.
All counties will be getting more vaccine doses next week, Reynolds said. She said the federal government has informed Iowa that its weekly allotment will increase 24% next week, from roughly 49,900 to almost 62,000.
As COVID-19 testing is expected to continue becoming more widely available, the state public health department’s tracking of COVID-19 test data is shifting away from a focus on individual testing and instead onto a broad look at virus spread during the 14-day incubation period.
Starting this week, state public health officials will calculate Iowa’s positivity rate by dividing the number of positive tests over a two week period with the total number of tests, both negative and positive, in that same time period.
This is the same method used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to calculate percent positivity.
Currently, 14-day positivity rates reported daily by the Iowa Department of Public Health are computed by taking individuals who tested for the virus and dividing that number with the total individuals who received a COVID-19 tests.
The change, which will be reflected on the state’s coronavirus tracking website by the end of the week, will likely result in a lower positivity rate overall for Iowa, IDPH Interim Director Kelly Garcia said during a press availability Wednesday.
Iowans have easier access to testing than they did early in the pandemic, and the addition of at-home testing options expected to hit the market in the coming months would further limit the ability for the state to monitor testing at an individual level, Garcia said.
“As antigen testing became more readily available and commonly used for routine testing, the number of tests by individual began increasing significantly. In fact, it really did skyrocket,” Garcia told reporters. “The process to duplicate these tests by individual became incredibly complex.”