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Iowa nears 1 million completed vaccinations, road to herd immunity remains long

KCCI Des Moines logo KCCI Des Moines 4/28/2021
a person holding a sign: covid-19 vaccine clinic © KCCI covid-19 vaccine clinic

Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health showed the Hawkeye State just a few hundred shots away from 1 million fully-vaccinated residents Tuesday, but doctors say a lot more people will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reach herd immunity.

Dr. Austin Baeth, an internal medicine physician at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, said current herd immunity estimates range from 70 to 85%.

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The 1 million mark represents less than a third of Iowa's population. A recent Morning Consult poll found that 20% of Iowans said they would not get vaccinated, and state data shows that vaccine demand is already waning.

Herd immunity can be acquired through vaccination or through having developed antibodies after contracting COVID-19.

"It appears we're approaching a stage where we need to start encouraging and convincing a few more people to get the vaccine," Baeth said.

The same Morning Consult poll found Americans in three demographics that were most hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine: those aged 18 to 34, Republicans, and Black adults.

KCCI spoke to one member of the aforementioned age group Tuesday who had just received her first dose.

"I just felt like it was a good idea," Lindsey Hoehle, 20, said. "I wanted to be extra safe. My grandma has COPD and I wanted to be safe around her."

Hoehle said she has seen some level of hesitancy among her peers.

"Personally, all of my friends are definitely getting the vaccine," she said. "I do know some other people who are kind of hesitant about it. I guess they don't know, they feel it's not researched enough."

Baeth said part of educating people on vaccine safety is not only noting that the vaccines are grounded in research conducted well before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but also noting the extreme rarity of severe complications.

"I think fear sometimes clouds our assessment of true risk," he said. "It's hard for us to reconcile the one in several million chances of, of having something bad go wrong with the very real risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19."

"For example, about two in a million of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients develop the cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Two in a million developed that condition," he continued. "Almost 2,000 per million Iowans die of COVID-19. So, when you compare those two statistics, I think it becomes clear that (the vaccine)'s the much safer option to develop immunity to this disease."

Baeth said there's hope that people on the fence about getting vaccinated will come around after seeing their friends and loved ones join the millions of Americans getting the shots without issues.

"I do think it's important to point out that in the history of vaccine administration, that if an adverse event, in other words, if a side effect or a death were to occur, it typically occurs on the order of minutes to hours or maybe days, not on the order of weeks, or months or years," Baeth said. "So if something bad were to happen from this vaccine, we would have seen it already. And that dates back to decades of vaccine utilization that's been rolled out across the United States. And so, again, I'm not worried. That's why I took it myself."

Here's everything you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines in Iowa.

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