Vaccination hesitancy prompting Iowa to reallocate COVID-19 vaccine doses

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 9:45 AM CDT
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JOHNSTON, Iowa (WOWT) - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that vaccine hesitancy in the wake of the pause put on Johnson & Johnson vaccinations has caused 43 counties to decline some or all of next week’s allocations.

The doses will be reallocated to larger communities where is there is greater demand, the governor said.

The news comes about two weeks after Iowa saw its highest number of vaccinations given on a single day, with 50,000 doses administered on April 8.

During her update on the state’s COVID-19 response, the governor reported that Iowa had administered 2 million vaccination doses five weeks after hitting the 1-million mark. To date, she said, 53% of Iowans ages 18 and older have had one dose, and more than 37% fully vaccinated, making Iowa 15th in the nation.

But the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccination to further examine six cases of post-vaccination blood clots has some Iowans reconsidering, she said.

“Unfortunately, Iowa — and states across the nation — are seeing a decline in uptake of vaccine since the J&J announcement,” Reynolds said.

It’s been disappointing to see the shift, she said, but choosing to accept only the amount that can be used is the right thing to do.

The governor continued to urge Iowans to get vaccinated, noting that many pharmacies are seeing open appointments.

“This shift isn’t, again, unique to Iowa. Vaccine hesitancy is beginning to become a real factor across the country,” she said.

During the news conference, Iowa National Guard Adjutant Gen. Ben Corell shared details about his own battle with COVID-19. He was hospitalized for a week with the virus in November after he “had the entire laundry list of COVID-19 signs and symptoms.”

He said he had been careful, following CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines, “but I still got the virus.”

Correll said he was in denial about how sick he was, even as he continued to get worse. His doctor advised getting an oxygen monitor, and he went to the emergency room the next day.

“The after-effects of my experience with this virus still exist five months later,” he said, calling COVID-19 “nothing to mess with.”

Correll said he received his doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine “without hesitation.”

“For those of you sitting on the fence, wondering about getting vaccinated: Do it. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The governor shared details from a study by Kaiser Family Foundation shows that young and middle-aged adults are the least willing to be vaccinated: 50% of those in the study ages 18-39 said they would “wait and see”; 28% of adults ages 40-59 said the same. Among those who said they definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccination, 45% were ages 18-39, and 36% were ages 40-59.

“These results, I think, likely reflect a sense of security among younger adults who typically experience only mild illness from the virus and are generally less concerned about preventative care,” Reynolds said.

That led the state to focus vaccination efforts on college campuses, she said. The pause on J&J did put a hold on college clinics, but reallocations of Modern and Pfizer doses enabled the clinics to reopen within days.

Reynolds also reported that Iowa had confirmed last week its first Brazilian variant. CDC reported U.K. variant most common strain.

“The emergence of the new COVID-19 variants is to be expected, and it’s normal with any type of virus,” the governor said.

News that a booster may be needed after a year and perhaps every year is not at all surprising, she said, noting it’s possible that the COVID-19 vaccine could be administered with annual flu shots.

Any Iowans who need help getting a vaccine appointment scheduled can call 2-1-1 to talk with a Vaccine Navigator from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Reynolds said.

Watch Wednesday’s news conference

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