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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
JOHNSTON — With worries that demand for COVID-19 vaccines already is slacking off as nearly half of the state’s counties have declined new doses, Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday implored Iowans to overcome their hesitancy and get immunized.
“We are making great progress, but we can always do better, and in this case we absolutely should,” the governor said at a televised news conference at Iowa PBS studios. “Today I want to appeal to everyone who’s hesitating. If you’re opting to wait and see, what are you waiting for? If you’ve been a hard ‘no’ from the start, what’s your reason? And if you can’t answer those questions, we hope that you take the time to reconsider.”
Forty-three of Iowa’s 99 counties last week rejected some or all new vaccine shipments from the state because they have not yet used their previous allotments, state public health officials said. That’s up from 20 counties that declined new doses just one week before.
Many of those 43 counties are clustered in the state’s northwestern region, including Sioux City’s Woodbury County, state public health officials said. Reynolds’ administration is addressing that regional issue by dispatching Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, a native of Hawarden, to Western Iowa to receive his COVID-19 vaccination. Gregg will get the shot during a public clinic Friday in Sioux City.
Reynolds said vaccine hesitancy is not unique to Iowa, and appears to be most prevalent among younger people. Public polls also have showed vaccine hesitancy is more prevalent among Republicans and conservatives.
“Whatever the reasons, it’s important to understand why certain groups may be hesitant so that we can continue to do everything that we can to take a more targeted approach to providing that information and vaccination options that are most relevant for them,” the Republican governor said.
Reynolds said vaccine doses that are not needed in some counties are being reallocated to other, more populous areas where there still is demand for the vaccine.
Joining Reynolds at the news conference and in her plea for more Iowans to get vaccinated was Ben Corell, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard. Corell described his own bout with COVID-19 in November. He said he was hospitalized for a week and to this day feels some symptoms of the virus, including fatigue and shortness of breath.
Corell said he completed his vaccination in March.
“Recently we gained a tool to help stop this virus from perpetuating. We now have vaccines. We now have renewed hope to move forward without this plague following us, bringing us sickness and death,” Corell said. “I had no hesitation in becoming vaccinated. … I believe getting vaccinated is doing my part in helping stop the cycle of spreading this virus. …
“For those of you sitting on the fence, wondering about getting vaccinated, do it. It’s the right thing to do for you, your family, your neighbors, and our communities. Join us in being part of the solution to end this.”
Corell said roughly half of Iowa’s National Guard members have not yet been vaccinated. He said vaccination is not at this point a requirement for service but urged Guard members to get vaccinated.
More than 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Iowans, and more than 860,000 Iowans are fully vaccinated, according to state public health data. That is nearly 35 percent of all Iowans age 16 and up.
Iowa has the 15th-highest share among all states of its population that is fully vaccinated, according to Washington Post and New York Times trackers that use federal statistics.
Vaccination rates are higher in both Linn and Johnson counties than in the state as a whole. In Linn, over 37 percent of the 16-and-up population is fully vaccinated. In Johnson, the rate is nearly 43 percent.
The 43 counties that declined doses for this week from the state allocation are: Adams, Allamakee, Appanoose, Audubon, Buena Vista, Butler, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Clay, Clayton, Crawford, Des Moines, Dickinson, Emmet, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Fremont, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Humboldt, Ida, Jackson, Jefferson, Keokuk, Kossuth, Louisa, Lyon, O'Brien, Palo Alto, Sac, Sioux, Taylor, Union, Van Buren, Wapello, Webster, Winnebago and Woodbury.
The Associated Press contributed.