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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds receives COVID-19 vaccine

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Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses COVID-19 response

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses COVID-19 vaccinations in Iowa communities during an interview at the Sioux City Journal offices, Monday in Sioux City.

JOHNSTON — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reynolds, along with her husband Kevin and state public health director Kelly Garcia, received the COVID-19 vaccine during her weekly press conference Wednesday at Iowa PBS studios.

Reynolds received the newest vaccine on the market, from Johnson & Johnson, which requires just one shot. Previous vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, require two shots taken three to four weeks apart.

Reynolds said she waited to receive the vaccine until now to defer to other Iowans in populations more vulnerable to COVID-19’s most severe effects, and that she chose to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to show Iowans it is as safe and effective as the others.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a lower efficacy rate than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. But infectious disease and public health experts say that should not dissuade anyone from getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which they say is just as effective as the others at preventing individuals from being hospitalized by COVID-19.

Gov. Kim Reynolds talks about Iowa’s response to COVID-19.

“I wanted to ensure Iowans that I believe it is a safe vaccine and not to be afraid to take it,” Reynolds said just after receiving the shot in her left arm. “I also wanted to make sure that our health care workers were vaccinated. I wanted to make sure that residents and staff in our assisted living (facilities), that they were able to get the vaccine. I wanted to make sure that essential workers, our educators, and other populations were able to get the vaccine.”

To support her point about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Reynolds invited to speak at the press conference Dr. Patricia Winokur, executive dean of the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine and a professor of infectious diseases and internal medicine.

“This is a great vaccine,” Winokur said. “People have gotten caught up on that 70% (efficacy) vs. 90% … But remember, this vaccine, when you really look carefully at the data, it is exceptionally good at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations.”

Winokur said annual flu vaccines are also roughly 70% effective, which she called “outstanding.”

“But the fact that these vaccines are close to 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations is the statistic that people should be watching,” she said.

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Reynolds and Garcia said they both felt good roughly 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine. 

More than 715,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Iowans, and more than 196,000 have received both doses, according to state figures.

Roughly 2.5 million Iowans are 18 years or older, according to U.S. Census figures, and thus eligible to receive the vaccine at some point.

Reynolds and state public health officials said Iowa’s low rate of residents who have received their second dose of the vaccine has in part been due to slow reporting in the federally-led program in which pharmacies conduct vaccinations.

State officials said thousands of doses were administered but have not yet been reported to the federal government. Once those figures are reported by the pharmacies, Iowa’s number and rate of second doses should increase, state officials said.

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