Governor, Guard general urge wary Iowans: Get vaccinated

By: - April 21, 2021 2:52 pm

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Corell, Iowa’s adjutant general, asked Iowans to get vaccinated for COVID-19. (Screenshot via Iowa PBS)

Iowa’s adjutant general, still laboring to breathe months after spending a week in the hospital with COVID-19, on Wednesday appealed to Iowans to get vaccinated against the illness. 

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Corell, commander of the Iowa National Guard, appeared at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ weekly news conference. The governor also pleaded with Iowans to get vaccinated against a coronavirus that has disrupted schools, businesses and the economy for over a year. 

Corell said half of Iowa National Guard members still aren’t vaccinated. Many are young adults who are fit and don’t often get sick — and don’t think they need the shots, he said. For their sake and everyone else’s, they should get the COVID-19 vaccine, he added.

Corell tested positive for the illness in November after he developed “the laundry list of COVID-19 symptoms.” He finished his Moderna vaccines in March. 

“I was really sick, and I wasn’t getting better,” the general said of the onset of COVID in November. He got the virus despite following federal guidelines for distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing. He had never been hospitalized before and had been in good health.

Five months later, Corell still fights shortness of breath and fatigue. 

“For all of you who have been vaccinated, thank you for being part of the solution to defeat this plague,” Corell said. ”For those of you who have not yet been vaccinated, I implore you to take time to get it scheduled, and get yourself vaccinated. For those of you sitting on the fence or wondering if you should get vaccinated, do it. It’s the right thing to do, for you, your family, your neighbors and our communities.”

Corell asked Guard members who have not been vaccinated to “serve your community in a different way” by signing up for an appointment. 

Gov. Kim Reynold, at her news conference April 21, 2021, appealed to Iowans to get vaccinated for COVID-19. (Screenshot via Iowa PBS)

Reynolds said a man who contacted her may have died of COVID-19 had it not been for the fact he got the vaccine before he caught the virus. The vaccinations aren’t a guarantee of avoiding the illness, but greatly reduce the odds of catching the virus, landing in the hospital, or dying, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. 

She told the story after noting that the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to a half-dozen cases of a rare blood clot may have led some to question getting any coronavirus vaccine. She strongly urged Iowans to get vaccinated for their own protection and so Iowa can develop “herd immunity” and return to more normal activities. 

“Vaccine hesitancy is starting to become a real factor across the country,” Reynolds said. “Vaccination remains the best defense against the virus, and it is how we will downgrade COVID-19 from pandemic status to effectively dealing with it as we do the flu, without disrupting our lives, livelihoods or sense of normalcy.” 

Reynolds appealed directly to anyone who is hesitating to be vaccinated: “If you are opting to ‘wait and see,’ what are you waiting for?” the governor asked. “If you have been a hard ‘no’ from the start, what is your reason? If you can’t answer those questions, we hope you will take the time to reconsider.”

A Kaiser Family Foundation study cited by Reynolds found that 50% of adults ages 18 through 39 were taking a “wait and see” posture on getting vaccinated. That compared to 28% among adults ages 40 to 59. Of those who said they don’t plan to get vaccinated, 45% were aged 18 to 39 years old. 

Reynolds said that data is one of the reasons why the state is pushing to get college and university students vaccinated before the end of the semester. The schools are substituting Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for the sidelined J & J vaccine.

Any Iowan now may call 211 for information on how to get vaccinated, the governor noted. All Iowans age 16 and older are now eligible to receive a vaccine.

Reynolds said 43 counties — twice the number of a week ago — have declined some or all of their state allotment of vaccine doses for next week. State health officials noted that there is still vaccine available in those counties, most of them in northwest Iowa.

The doses turned away by some counties are being shipped to more populous areas, including metro areas, where demand remains high, said Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. 

Reynolds said vaccine supply may soon exceed demand — a reversal of the situation over recent weeks. Many Iowans have traveled up to an hour or more one-way to get vaccinated as supplies struggled to keep up in the early going.  

Reynolds said Iowa had administered more than 2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines, doubling in five weeks. As of Wednesday, she said, more than 53% of Iowans over age 18 had received at least one dose, and 37% were fully vaccinated. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the health department reported 911,336 Iowans were fully vaccinated.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.