It has been a year since the COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Iowa

Nurse Rachel Lewis delivers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to ambulance doctor David Conway at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on December 14, 2020. Conway, who works with COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, was the first person in Iowa to receive the vaccine since it was approved. (The newspaper)

Nurse Rachel Lewis delivers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to ambulance doctor David Conway at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on December 14, 2020. Conway, who works with COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, was the first person in Iowa to receive the vaccine since it was approved. (The newspaper)

IOWA CITY – Tuesday was a year since the COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Iowa and the first doses were given to University of Iowa health care workers.

However, given the current surge in new infections and the resulting increase in COVID-19 patients in hospitals, efforts to protect the population from the virus are far from complete.

On December 14, 2020, UIHC received the state’s first shipment of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines, just days after U.S. health officials approved the two-dose regiment for use in certain populations. One hundred and seventy-eight UI Health Care employees received a vaccination that first day – including David Conway, an emergency room nurse who became the first person in Iowa to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

That day took months of planning, and when it arrived it was associated with a “mixture of emotions,” Michael Brownlee, UIHC’s chief pharmacy officer, told reporters on Monday. He remembered receiving the only box of vaccines at the hospital dock, how the cans were prepared, and the tears of joy when they were given to the first staff.

“If you ask one of our employees to look back on the day, it was one of the most memorable moments of their lives and something they will never forget,” Brownlee said at the press conference. “I wont. I will never forget all the details of that day.

“It didn’t bring the pandemic to its knees immediately, and that’s fine,” he continued. “We have saved thousands of lives by giving those millions of doses and are grateful for the opportunity to be on the front lines.” Of being one of the first in the country to have UI Health Care doses here. “

Since vaccine availability was opened to most of the public in the weeks and months after December 2020, experts say more than 200 million Americans and more than 4 billion people worldwide have been safely vaccinated.

“There were many important milestones during the pandemic and one that stands out is the first day of vaccinations,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive officer of UI Hospitals and Clinics, in a statement. “This was an exciting and joyful day that gave our employees a much-needed glimmer of hope in the darkest days of the pandemic.”

Although grateful, healthcare workers are still weighed down by the virus

Although UIHC leaders offered a message of hope for December 14th, the date marks a bittersweet moment for some. When supplies first began arriving at hospitals across the country there was a time of relief and celebration among health care workers as they believed they saw the light at the end of the tunnel of a devastating pandemic.

But even a year later, they are still struggling with seriously ill patients. New coronavirus infections have risen in Iowa in the past few weeks, resulting in hospital admission rates that have not been seen since December 2020.

Once again, Iowa hospitals are running out of intensive care beds, causing some hospitals to postpone some elective surgery and take other steps to maintain capacity.

The surge puts a strain on health workers, but even then there is a sense of gratitude that there is a vaccine that is effective in protecting many people, Brownlee said.

“I think it’s a mix of the ongoing battle with a pandemic and the workforce, and then a certain gratitude for safe and effective vaccines,” he said.

As of March 2020, the COVID-19 has resulted in the deaths of 7,550 Iowans. It is also the cause of nearly 800,000 deaths in the United States and more than 5 million deaths worldwide.

Although vaccines have been available to adults in Iowa for 365 days, the continued spread of the virus indicates that communities in Iowa still do not have full protection. The vaccinations are not approved for children under the age of five, and the declining immunity of the vaccines has led federal officials to extend booster ratings to all adult Americans.

Additionally, adoption of the vaccine has been slow in some groups, with only 58.38 percent of the Iowa population ages five and older as of Monday. According to the state’s latest coronavirus data, 54.76 percent of the state’s total population – or 1,727,724 Iowans – are fully vaccinated.

The biggest barrier to efforts by healthcare executives to achieve herd immunity to the coronavirus is sheer misinformation about the shots, Brownlee said.

Experts agree. Misinformation about COVID-19 has been rampant since March 2020, and studies have shown that belief in misinformation is correlated with vaccination status.

According to a November 2021 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 80 percent of adults have heard at least one piece of misinformation and either believe it is true or are unsure whether it is true or false.

Brownlee said its major vendors are taking a targeted approach to getting shots in more arms, such as:

UIHC officials continue to urge anyone aged 16 and over to get a booster vaccination, especially given the new variant of Omicron coronavirus that is roaming the country. Early studies have shown that the COVID-19 booster syringes are effective against the variant.

Providers also encourage those who have not received the vaccination to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Each additional person who receives a vaccine brings us one step closer to the end of the pandemic, and that is a very good reason to look to the future with hope,” Gunasekaran said in a statement.

Officials say important people continue to wear masks, social distancing themselves, and other mitigation strategies.

The University of Iowa’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Research

The University of Iowa has played a role in fighting the pandemic, including laying the groundwork for a future vaccine through research. Stanley Perlman, a UI professor of microbiology and immunology and pediatrics, shared his 40 years of coronavirus research and expertise in the wake of the spread of COVID-19.

Patricia Winokur, executive dean of UI Carver College of Medicine and principal investigator for UI’s Pfizer Clinical Trial Center, said last year that his work paved the way for rapid vaccine development.

The university became a site for clinical trials of Pfizer vaccines in the summer of 2020, with 44,000 research participants participating by November 2020.

UI researchers continue to participate in COVID-19 vaccine studies, including a new vaccine called Novavax that is currently being investigated for its effectiveness against the virus.

The UI test center should accommodate 250 participants, Officials said.

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