All Iowans will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccination on April 5, Reynolds says

Gov. Kim Reynolds received a COVID-19 vaccine on camera during her March 3 press conference. — video still

All adults in Iowa will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination starting on Monday, April 5, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced at her news conference on Wednesday. The new eligibility expansion will be contingent on the vaccine supply increasing.

According to Reynolds, Biden administration officials assure the nation’s governors vaccine supplies will soon begin to increase substantially during a conference call on Tuesday.

“During the week of March 29, the federal government is projecting a significant increase in weekly supply — potentially 20 million doses nationwide, which could include 4 to 6 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” the governor said. “Then in April, weekly allocations could increase even more, exceeding 22 million doses across the country.”

Reynolds said Iowa will receive about 1 percent of the nationwide increase in vaccines.

At the news conference, the governor was asked if the vaccine scheduling assistance provided to Iowans 65 and older via the state’s 211 call center, available since March 9, will be extended to younger people who don’t have access to computers or smartphones, or are otherwise having problems scheduling appointments.

“We’re looking at that,” she replied.

Even if the expansion of eligibility occurs on April 5, some people may resist vaccination, and recent polling suggests politics plays an important part in that decision for some.

A new poll from conducted by Marist College with NPR and PBS NewsHour was the latest to find a partisan divide regarding the willingness to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The nationwide poll found that “47 percent of those who said they voted for Republican former President Donald Trump in November said they would not be vaccinated.”

That’s in keeping with other recent polls, which found that Republican men “are the demographic group most likely to say they’ll refuse the coronavirus vaccine,” NPR reported.

Public health experts say a large part of the problem is that Republican political leaders haven’t been advocating strongly for everyone eligible to get vaccinated.

Gov. Reynolds was asked about the connection between political affiliation and vaccine rejection, and what she would tell people regarding vaccination.

“I think it’s the right thing to do for the greater good,” Reynolds said. “It’s a personal decision, individuals will make that.”

Last week, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported many of the employees at Iowa’s state-run long-term care facilities have declined getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The Dispatch examined public records published by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), which is responsible for the state’s six facilities, 722 of the facilities’ 1,848 employees, or 39 percent, have declined the opportunity to be vaccinated.

The refusal rate ranges from 30 percent of the 515 employees at the Woodward Resource Center, which serves the needs of children and adults “with intellectual disabilities and other related disabilities,” to 49 percent of the employees at the Glenwood Resource Center, which serves people with severe intellectual disabilities.

DHS says it “strongly encourages” employees to get vaccinated but does not require it.

Reynolds was not asked about the employees at the state-run facilities during her news conference, but she was asked why the state isn’t providing information on how many of the employees at the state’s more the 440 private long-term care facilities have refused to be vaccinated.

The governor turned the question over to DHS Director Kelly Garcia. The answer is simple, according to Garcia: the state doesn’t collect that data.

“There’s not a requirement to report that information to the state,” Garcia said. “Not to DHS, not to DIA [the Department of Inspections and Appeals, which inspects nursing homes] and not to the Department of Health.”

In addition to be the director of DHS, Garcia is also the interim director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Despite the pandemic, IDPH has not had a full-time director since the end of July.

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