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Here's the latest on Iowa's plan to distribute the coronavirus vaccine

As of Monday, more than 8,400 Iowa health care workers have been vaccinated for COVID-19, according to Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Credit: UPI
Steve Frigo, head of Pharmacy Services for Mercy Hospital, displays a vial of Pfizer vaccine at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur, Missouri on Monday, December 14, 2020. The first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Mercy Hospitals in St. Louis. Front-line health care workers who work directly or in close contact with COVID-19 patients, will be the first to be vaccinated. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

DES MOINES, Iowa — Editor's Note: The video above is from Dec. 18, 2020.

At her press conference Tuesday morning, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced more than 8,400 Iowa health care workers have been vaccinated for the novel coronavirus so far, and the number will continue to grow as Moderna shipments arrive in the state.

Last week, Iowa was slated for 26,000 people to be vaccinated, a number that has changed a few times and caused confusion among Iowans. 

"As you saw last week, the federal government notified a number of states, including Iowa, that vaccine allocations would be less than what was initially projected," Reynolds said. 

"And this set off a confusion chain of reactions across the nation, including right here at home, causing some widespread concern that we wouldn't be able to meet the immediate vaccination needs of Iowa's health care workers and speculation that the state would delay vaccination for long term care residents and staff," Reynolds said. 

Last Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) released a statement notifying the public about a possible 30% reduction in vaccines being sent to the state. 

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the IDPH's statement was "incorrect." The confusion only amplified after reports of extra vaccine doses, which could reportedly increase the country's supply by 40%, being found in Pfizer vaccines. 

Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration said the numbers that states saw in the system prior to Tuesday were estimates put in weeks ago. They were adjusted once officials received the actual number of doses Pfizer had ready to ship. 

The IDPH released an additional statement Thursday night, saying Iowa anticipates 20% fewer vaccines than expected, around 138,300. 

Reynolds said the IDPH worked closely with federal partners last week to determine how Iowa's allocation would change and what adjustments would be needed as a result. 

Over the weekend, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, CEO of Operation Warp Speed, apologized for the confusion. 

Reynolds said Perna took full responsibility for an unintentional planning error that caused vaccine doses to be incorrectly overallocated to some states.

"There are bound to be some bumps in the road as we head down this new path, and move forward. So, it's important I think to keep in mind that while receiving less vaccine than initially estimated is disappointing, it doesn't change the fact that at this very moment Iowans are being vaccinated, that two vaccines are now available in the US, changing the course of the pandemic as we speak, and that within a matter of just a few more months, the vaccines will be more widely available and life will begin to return to normal," Reynolds said. 

Iowa is still on schedule to begin vaccinating long-term care residents and staff starting Dec. 28, according to Reynolds. 

IDPH interim director Kelly Garcia said the Moderna vaccine is already being administered in Iowa. 

"It's arrived in Iowa and we're on track for distribution this week and next. Health care settings including hospitals and clinics will receive shipments directly as allocated by local public health authorities in partnership with our department," Garcia said. 

The Moderna vaccine is different from the Pfizer vaccine in that it isn't required to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures and it's shipped in smaller quantities. That's why these vaccines are being sent to rural areas with smaller populations. 

Moderna is also only for folks age 18 years and older, while Pfizer is intended for those 16 and older. 

How many vaccines is Iowa getting?

Iowa will receive 138,300 vaccines in total. Here's a look at the state's distribution plan as of last Thursday:

Credit: Iowa Department of Public Health
IDPH vaccine distribution plan as of Dec. 17, 2020.

Who gets the vaccine next?

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met again to provide further guidance on distribution. Iowa will continue to prioritize health care workers and long-term residents, according to Garcia. 

ACIP is looking into the next groups in Phase 1b to vaccinate: frontline essential workers and individuals aged 75 years and older. Phase 1c includes adults aged 64-74 years and individuals aged 16-64 years with high-risk medical conditions.

"However, to be clear, and as the governor mentioned, we're still in the early stages where our efforts are focused solely on health care workers and long-term care settings," Garcia said. 

Iowa's version of ACIP, the Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC), met Monday evening to discuss and identify potential groups to prioritize that weren't included in the recommended subgroups.

This includes low-income workers who may have limited access to health care and may be at higher risk due to workplace settings and other social determinants, according to Garcia. 

IDAC also noted individuals experiencing homelessness and individuals with disabilities should be included. 

"They also discussed the need to use data-driven sub prioritization recommendations, which includes looking at disease trends vaccination uptake and vaccine allocation projections. We'll continue to provide updates on their discussion posts their meeting minutes, votes and final recommendations," Garcia said. 

RELATED: Iowa vaccine panel will keep meetings closed to the public

Garcia said she has accepted all of the group's recommendations so far. 

Long-term care partnerships with pharmacies

Garcia said the state activated its national pharmacy partnership program for assisted living facilities over the weekend and the federal government gave approval for them to start vaccinating people by Dec. 28.