OSKALOOSA — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday the state will open up vaccine eligibility to all Iowans next week, saying allocations have increased as projected.

There are three vaccines currently available following emergency use authorizations by the Food and Drug Administration: Johnson & JohnsonModerna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses to be most effective, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose shot.

Reynolds said more and more appointments are opening up across the state, though they may become harder to get starting next week as eligibility expands.

Even if the state continues on its current vaccination pace, Reynolds said Wednesday the state will have vaccinated 75% of its population by July 2. Experts say to reach herd immunity, between 75% and 80% of the population needs to receive the vaccine.

Allocations from the federal government are expected to continue to increase, which could speed up that timeline if Iowans get vaccinated as they are able.

“I think the future looks pretty good for getting Iowans vaccinated,” Reynolds said.

The state’s move next week will allow those 16 years old and older to get vaccinated. However, 16- and 17-year-old Iowans are currently only able to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are only authorized for those age 18 and above.

Reynolds also said the state’s 211 coronavirus hotline is expanding. The hotline was set up to allow Iowans access to COVID-19 information, but recently vaccine navigators were added to assist those without internet or other technical challenges in setting up vaccine appointments.

That service had only been available to those age 65 and up, but now is open to all Iowans who are currently eligible and need the assistance.

Previously, the service would help Iowans set up appointments at a nearby Hy-Vee Pharmacy. Reynolds said the service will also be able to begin scheduling appointments at CPESN networked pharmacy providers, as well.

Officials say Iowans should get whatever vaccine is available to them. Studies have shown all to be effective at preventing infection, and all are shown to be incredibly successful at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

Kelly Garcia, the director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, said Wednesday, “It is especially important that everyone get vaccinated as soon as possible, and take any vaccine that is made available to them. We now have the key tools to stop the spread, and we must use them.”

As the Easter holiday approaches, Reynolds said the holiday is symbolic.

"This holiday in particular, symbolizes new beginnings and I believe that we're on the cusp of exactly that," she said. "We've endured a difficult year, but we are strong and we are resilient. And we are now moving ahead toward better and brighter days."

New state data on Thursday showed another 809 individuals were positive for the coronavirus.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 14 deaths caused by the virus. The state regularly reports deaths on a delay, taking days and weeks to add deaths publicly after a verification process. To date, there have been 5,743 deaths reported in Iowa.

None of the new deaths were in the Herald's coverage area.

There were 3 new cases in Marion County reported. Updated data also included 2 new cases in Mahaska.

Iowa has now given 1,459,906 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to Iowa residents, which is 26,627 more than the prior day. As of Thursday, the state has given one dose of the vaccine to roughly 11.2% of its population. About 19.1% have received both doses.

Marion County leads the Herald's coverage area in the percent of its population that has been fully vaccinated. The county ranks 47th in Iowa, with 6,282 receiving all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Another 3,413 have received the first dose.

In Mahaska County, there have been 3,293 receive all required doses of the vaccine, which ranks 93rd in Iowa in terms of rate of completed vaccination series. There have been another 1,787 receive the first dose to date.

The number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 194 as of Thursday morning. There were 41 in an intensive care unit.

Out of Herald area counties, the 14-day test positivity rate was highest in Mahaska County at 2.9%. It was lowest in Marion County at 2.6%.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Oskaloosa Herald and the Ottumwa Courier. He can be reached at kocker@oskyherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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