IOWA CITY — Although millions of distributed COVID-19 vaccine doses have yet to make it into American arms, University of Iowa Health Care has used every dose it got “within seven days of receiving it,” officials said Wednesday.
UIHC has no plans to extend the reach of its limited vaccine supply by administering just half of the recommended two-dose course to employees — as some national experts have suggested in hopes of getting more Americans at least some degree of protection as the virus continues its spread.
“We will continue to provide a second dose to employees in accordance with guidance from the (Food and Drug Administration),” officials said.
As of Tuesday, 73 UIHC employees had received both of the recommended doses needed to achieve 95 percent efficacy.
Of its 16,000-some workers, UIHC as of Tuesday had vaccinated 7,025 with a first dose and expected as soon as next week to start vaccinating a third tier of employees — including patient-care staff at off-site clinics prioritized behind front line physicians, nurses, housekeepers and other main campus staff.
A fourth and final group captures all other UIHC workers who aren’t on the front lines. A UIHC employee survey found between 5 and 8 percent of workers offered a shot have turned it down.
To date, the state has received among the lowest total vaccine doses in the country — as well as doses per 100,000 people — with 120,175, amounting to 3,809 per 100,000, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just four states have lower distribution rates: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Ohio.
Iowa has administered 60,137 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved for emergency use, according to the CDC. That amounts to 1,906 per 100,000 people.
Despite national reports of rollout snags — with just 5.3 million of the 17.3 million distributed doses used, according to the CDC — UIHC officials told The Gazette they’ve not had issues administering the vaccine, which takes no longer than the average flu shot to give.
“We are very pleased with how safe and efficient our vaccination rollout has been so far,” UIHC Chief Pharmacy Officer Mike Brownlee said in a statement. “And we are confident in our ability to continue to administer all the vaccine we receive to our employees rapidly and efficiently, while maintaining a safe process for those being vaccinated.”
Given that UIHC receives its vaccine allocation on a week-by-week basis, officials can’t forecast what its supply will look like in the coming days or months.
Addressing a frequent question from community members wanting to know when UIHC might be able to vaccinate the broader public, officials said they’re taking cues from the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health.
“The two organizations have not yet announced additional population prioritization for the vaccines beyond health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.”
Among vaccinated UIHC workers, some have noted mild to moderate side effects like arm pain.
“These reactions are expected and are an indication that the vaccine is working to produce immunity,” officials said.
In addition to the pair of tested vaccines approved for emergency use, UIHC has started inoculating volunteers for a Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial. To date, 10 people have received a shot — although they don’t know whether they got the candidate vaccine or a placebo.
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