CORONAVIRUS

Put on pause, some Iowa counties will get more vaccines after all

State modifies decision to withhold doses from counties it said were lagging

Staff nurse Rachel Lewis draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for a healthcare worker at the University
Staff nurse Rachel Lewis draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for a healthcare worker at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa health officials have modified a decision they made last week to withhold COVID-19 vaccines from some counties that were reported as not having used up to 80 percent of their allocation.

The Iowa Department of Public Health informed five counties last week that it would withhold this week’s allotments of vaccine because they had not inoculated enough people and needed time to catch up.

The decision drew criticism from several county health administrators, who said the state was either mistaken or that bad weather had temporarily slowed their progress.

The announcement followed a new state rule requiring the use of at least 80 percent of a county’s vaccination allotment. The rule is designed to reduce the number of vaccine doses sitting in storage.

Monday, the state Public Health Department said the counties would be getting their allotment of vaccines after negotiating an agreement to resolve the issues that led to lagging vaccine use, the Des Moines Register reported.

Tai Burkhart, director of the Buchanan County health department, said her county had used at least 80 percent of its allotment last week. But because one of its vaccination clinics was held on Friday, state officials who had used Thursday figures wrongly thought the county was behind.

Washington County will get its 300 doses this week, although on Friday, later than usual.

Washington County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski said a blizzard forced a vaccination clinic to be rescheduled. Once that was counted, the county met the threshold.

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Pettit-Majewski said she has no concerns about not meeting the state’s 80 percent “burn rate” threshold.

“We know we’ll be getting our allocated doses, and we’ll be able to serve the community,” she said. “That’s all we want to do.”

Iowa’s current focus in its vaccination effort is on people 65 and older, teachers and child care workers, police and firefighters.

James Jennings of the Southeast Iowa Union contributed.

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