Opinion

Capitol Ideas column: High demand for COVID-19 vaccine is great news; now about that supply

Registered nurse Mary Takes draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to begin vaccinations at Mercy Medical
Registered nurse Mary Takes draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to begin vaccinations at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Dec. 15, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Supply and demand is an economic principle that is as basic as they come.

And it’s what we’re all dealing with during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines: There is a lot of demand for a limited supply.

Isn’t it wonderful?

Not the part about people who want the vaccine being unable to get it, or being forced to wait. That, of course, is not good, especially if that group includes any Iowans who are among those most vulnerable to the virus’ dangerous and deadly effects.

But the fact that so many people want to get the vaccine is encouraging news for those of us who want to be rid of COVID-19, or at least relegate it to the sideline, where it will be a minor annoyance, not a colossal and deadly hassle.

Public health and infectious disease experts say widespread administration of the COVID-19 vaccine is crucial to helping us all move closer to that long-sought return to normal, or at least as close to normalcy as we’ll ever see again. With so many Iowans showing a clear desire to get the vaccine, we can feel heartened we are moving down the right path.

Now it’s up to our government leaders and bodies to meet this challenging moment.

That demand is so high that government bodies cannot keep up is, in some ways, a good problem to have. Obviously, it would be better to have no problem at all. But we could be sitting here with millions of doses of vaccine and nobody willing to take them. That would be worse.

With demand outweighing supply, the pressure is on the federal, state and local governments to streamline the process and get shots into Iowans’ arms as quickly and as safely as possible.

To be sure, that’s very much a simple statement about a remarkably complex project.

Nevertheless, it is the monumental but critical challenge that faces all of our government bodies. The partnerships between all levels of government, and between governmental bodies and private industries, must continue to improve in order to keep in motion a rapid and steady assembly line.

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That’s why Iowans continue to seek the vaccine, and why they have so many questions about the process. And it’s why reporters continue to ask government leaders about the rollout.

Lives depend on it.

Public education in the spotlight

Iowa’s K-12 public schools often get a decent amount of attention early in each year’s session of the Legislature because, typically, state lawmakers try to set school funding for the next budget year early each session.

But public education in general this session has taken up a lot of the oxygen in the Iowa Legislature.

Setting aside whether that’s a good or bad thing — quick synopsis: most public school advocates think it’s mostly a bad thing because of the specific proposals on the table — it still is fairly remarkable how much legislation is moving early this session that affects public education.

In addition to the typical funding bill and debate, lawmakers already have passed a pandemic-related measure that requires school districts to offer to all students the option of 100 percent in-person learning.

Currently being considered is a sweeping bill by Gov. Kim Reynolds that devotes taxpayer funding for private school tuition, expands the state’s charter school program, and eliminates diversity plans that preclude students from transferring out of a school.

More recently advancing was a bill that would ban K-12 and college curriculum using a New York Times project on the history over slavery in the U.S. And the legislation has reached the state’s three public universities, too: one bill would ban tenure, and another would have the colleges poll the political affiliation of their staff.

That’s a heavy focus on education in the early going. It could be a monumental year for new education policy in the state.

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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