Report: Fewer than half of Iowa Veterans Home workers were given COVID-19 vaccine

By: - January 25, 2021 2:08 pm

Former Iowa Veterans Home Commandant Timon Oujiri was relieved of his duties earlier this year. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS press conference on Dec. 22, 2020)

Fewer than half the workers at the Iowa Veterans Home have received the coronavirus vaccine, according to the American Legion of Iowa.

The Legion reported in its Jan. 16 newsletter that only 444 of the state-run home’s 904 workers received their first shot in the two-dose series when vaccinations were given at the Marshalltown home the week of Jan. 10.

It’s not clear why so few workers — many of whom have already been infected — received the vaccine. Commandant Timon Oujiri did not respond to questions about the matter Monday, but told the American Legion of Iowa that staff members have “received education” on the vaccine are being “encouraged” to get it.

“We are hoping for more staff to be inoculated in the second round,” Oujiri told the Legion, which reported that 379 of the facility’s 415 residents, or 91%, had opted to receive the vaccine, compared to 49% of the staff.

Another round of vaccines is expected to be administered at the home Feb. 2 through Feb. 4. The first available shots will be given to those who did not participate in the first round of vaccines, and those individuals are expected to receive their second dose between March 23 and March 25.

At a Dec. 22 press conference, Oujiri said only 21 residents of the Iowa Veterans Home had contracted the coronavirus during the pandemic, and five of the 21 had died. At the time, he said the home’s COVID-19 unit had been staffed by volunteers, adding that some of the home’s residents likened the unit to “a five-star hotel.”

Oujiri said that at one time, 120 of home’s workers “were off work due to (coronavirus) exposures outside of our doors.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.