JOHNSTON (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds implored Iowans on Wednesday to get vaccinated for COVID-19, however she refused to acknowledge that slowing demand for the shots is greatest in Republican parts of the state or that there’s a political aspect to the trend.
After 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties this week declined additional shipments of vaccine because of a decrease in demand, Reynolds promoted the vaccination effort by sharing the stage at her weekly news conference with National Guard Adjutant General Ben Corell, who is still recovering from a COVID-19 infection last winter. She also noted that Republican Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg would be vaccinated later this week in Sioux City.
But when asked about an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from late March in which 36% of Republicans said they probably or definitely would not get vaccinated, compared with 12% of Democrats, Reynolds questioned the validity of such polls.
“That’s your poll, but I think we need to look larger scale and we need to really do a deep dive and really take a look at why, what’s behind it, what can we do to help ensure Iowans that they are safe and this is the right thing to do, especially as we work to open back up and just continue to get life back to normal,” she said.
Reynolds cited Kaiser Family Foundation research indicating that age is a factor in resistance to getting vaccinated, with the highest resistance among adults ages 18 to 39.
“These results likely reflect a sense of security among young adults who typically experience only mild illness from the virus and are generally less concerned about preventative care,” said Reynolds, who repeatedly warned people to be proactive in stopping the spread of the virus but adamantly opposed mandatory restrictions and quickly reopened businesses.
Nearly 10.4% of the doses administered in Iowa have been to people ages 18 to 29, and that age group represents 25% of the state’s confirmed cases over the past seven days, health data shows.
However, Kaiser’s studies also have consistently shown significant reluctance among Republicans to get vaccinated. For example, Kaiser reported in March that, “About three in ten Republicans (29%) and a similar share of white adults who identify as Evangelical Christians (28%) say they will definitely not get the vaccine.” That study indicated 5% of Democrats and 9% of independents said they would not get vaccinated.
Of the 43 Iowa counties to decline vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 12 as having high rates of coronavirus transmission. Voter registration information shows that all 12 are heavily Republican counties.
Reynolds said she plans to ask respected community and religious leaders to encourage vaccine resisters to change their minds and get immunized.
“This shift isn’t unique to Iowa. Vaccine hesitancy is beginning to become a real factor across the country,” she said.
CDC data shows that Iowa has fully vaccinated 920,481 people, or 29.2% of its population. That is the 15th highest rate of any state.
Iowa health officials on Wednesday reported 691 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths from the disease, pushing the state’s pandemic death toll to 5,893.