The good news is almost anyone in Iowa who wants the COVID-19 vaccine can now get it any time they want.
The bad news is that’s because demand for the vaccine has dropped precipitously.
Lessened COVID-19 demand is not unique to Iowa; it’s something most states are dealing with.
That’s not all bad news. It does mean that the people who felt strongly about getting the vaccine have done so. As of Friday morning, nearly 1.1 million Iowans were fully vaccinated from COVID-19 and another 238,000 have received at least one dose in the two-dose series. Roughly 45% of Iowa’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, and the share of the entire population that’s vaccinated is 13th-best in the country, according to the Washington Post tracker that uses federal data.
Those are all very good things.
But demand for the vaccine continues to slow across much of the state, and if that trend does not change, it will prove difficult, if not impossible, for Iowa’s population to reach a point where public health officials feel confident COVID will be unable to spread here.
Because COVID-19 is a new virus, experts are not sure what portion of the population needs to be vaccinated before herd immunity is reached. Most educated guesses have been in the range of 70% and up.
Only 11 counties accepted their full allotment of COVID-19 vaccines for this week. Because they still had doses left over from previous shipments, 34 counties accepted just a portion of their new allotments, and 54 counties, more than half the state, did not need any new doses at all.
That’s a troubling trend for anyone who wants to put this virus behind them, as we all should. And while the numbers are down, the fight is not over. Iowans are still dying of the virus. And this week the state confirmed a third COVID death of an Iowa child.
To their credit, state and local officials are working on ways to boost vaccinations. Pop-up clinics are being set up at community events that draw crowds, like farmer’s markets and minor-league baseball games. Gov. Kim Reynolds said this week that a state public information campaign is in the works.
We all remember what last summer was like. It was not great. Now, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have all plummeted from the dangerous levels they were this past winter. And Iowans are getting vaccinated.
Let’s hope those trends keep on their current trajectory, and that the trend of growing vaccine hesitancy reverses course. Full ballparks, concert venues and theaters await. Let’s do all we can to get there.
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.