‘My arm was kind of twisted’: Who’s getting vaccinated at the Iowa State Fair?

By: - August 17, 2021 6:05 pm

Robert Wenck, 72, got a COVID-19 booster shot at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Screams from the towering metal Slingshot and Skyscraper rides echoed over the Hy-Vee vaccination booth at the Iowa State Fair as a handful of fairgoers got COVID-19 shots.

Over the course of two-and-a-half hours on Tuesday afternoon, seven people received a COVID vaccination. Of those, five got their first dose of a vaccine. Two received booster shots, a newly approved option for immunocompromised people.

Brenda Lounsbury, a registered nurse at Hy-Vee, said most people attending the fair weren’t interested in getting the vaccine there, as the shots have already been widely available at stores and doctors’ offices for several months. 

“We’re not really changing a lot of minds,” Lounsbury said, though she noted the booth served as a reminder for people who may be putting it off.

Bianca Lugardo, 29, said she had made an appointment to be vaccinated, but got busy and couldn’t make it. She got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday afternoon.

“You just come in, get it done, and you’re on your way,” Lugardo said, her 4-month-old daughter in a stroller nearby. “That was perfect for me as a new mom.”

Hy-Vee spokesperson Christina Gayman said about 150 people had been vaccinated at the state fair as of Sunday evening.

‘My arm was kind of twisted’

Several men got the shot Tuesday at the urging of wives and mothers who had already been vaccinated. Otley resident Arlan DeHeer got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine while his mom, Cheryl, waited — she got her vaccine in March.

“My arm was kind of twisted a little bit,” Arlan DeHeer, 61, said. Though he works from home, he said family members persuaded him he should get the shot.

“I’m not around that many people, so it’s not that big a deal to me,” he explained. “I don’t think that I’m really too susceptible.”

Theresa Bendlin, a hospital employee, said she felt better after her husband, John, got a dose of Johnson & Johnson at the fair.

John Bendlin, 62, had plenty of reasons to get his jab. “She works for UnityPoint and my son works for UnityPoint, and I want to go back and see my relatives in the state of Washington,” he said. “I said, ‘I better get my shot.’”

He also identified the more contagious delta variant as a motivator to get vaccinated. He passed the Hy-Vee booth on Friday, then decided to get the vaccine on Tuesday when he returned to the fair.

“That way, I’m safe for a while,” he said. “I’m safe now.”

Derrol Aadland, a Des Moines pipefitter, said he was hesitant after friends had reactions to the vaccine, but he chose to get the shot anyway. His wife, Melany Dann-Aadland, a nurse, was vaccinated in March.

Aadland said he wasn’t worried about being around state fair crowds before the vaccine has time to take effect. Dann-Aadland said they came in the daytime to avoid the worst of it.

“Now the delta thing’s out there. Once they fix that one, there will be some other named variant or something,” Aadland said. “You just gotta live your life.”

Vaccinated fairgoers interested in boosters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Friday that immunocompromised people receive a booster shot of the vaccine after their initial dose. 

Hy-Vee offered free vaccinations at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Several people on Tuesday afternoon stopped by the Hy-Vee booth to ask about booster shots, which were available in limited supply at the fair. Gail and Robert Wenck, 67 and 72, got their booster shots Tuesday.

“I did my homework,” Gail Wenck said. “I’d rather get it sooner than fight the crowds.”

She said she expected to stand in line for the shot, and was surprised by how empty the Hy-Vee booth was. 

Lounsbury, the Hy-Vee nurse, said people seemed well-informed and enthusiastic about booster shots so far.

“I don’t think there will be any kind of problem with the reboosting … I think if you’re in, you’re in, and if you’re out, you’re out as far as getting a vaccine,” she said.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.