COVID-19 Vaccine

Hardin County Public Health has partnered with Medicap Pharmacy in Eldora to dispense COVID-19 vaccine. The public health agency received 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week. Vaccinations began Wednesday. 

Michelle Lauchner isn’t opposed to vaccines – she’s received flu and tetanus shots in the past. But that doesn’t mean she’s lining up to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think people think ‘You must be one of those kooky anti-vaxxers,’ but I’m truly not,” said Lauchner, of Eldora. “I just have some real questions.”

Lauchner is one of tens of thousands of Iowans who are hesitant or resistant to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and as demand for the shots wanes, they're being targeted by public service announcements, ad campaigns and political figures.

As of Monday morning, 6,949 Hardin County residents have either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or they’ve received a first dose of the vaccine. That’s about 41 percent of the total Hardin County population, or about 50 percent of the county population that’s over the age of 18.

But in recent weeks, pharmacies and public health agencies have seen the demand for COVID-19 vaccines decrease sharply. Whereas during the week of March 23-28, Hardin County residents received 1,181 COVID-19 vaccine shots, during the week of April 27-May 3, only 544 shots were administered. For three consecutive weeks, Hardin County Public Health has declined its allotment of vaccine doses from the state – a trend that’s being seen across the state. That has turned attention to people like Michelle Lauchner.

“I think there’s a tendency to think that people like me are out there reading different things and believing everything that comes across my computer screen, but I’m not that dumb,” said Lauchner, who is 58 years old and reads articles online but doesn’t participate in social media. “I’m pretty discerning. I’m able to think and reason through what I’m reading.”

And what Lauchner has read concerns her. Specifically, that development of the COVID-19 vaccines was fast-tracked. She said she wants to wait and see if people who’ve received the vaccines report any problems in the months to come. She said it could be a year or more before she's comfortable receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Lauchner is among the Iowans Gov. Kim Reynolds was speaking to during a press conference last month.

“If you’re opting to wait and see, what are you waiting for?” Reynolds asked on April 21. “If you’ve been a hard ‘no’ from the start, what’s your reason? If you can’t answer those questions, we hope you take the time to reconsider.”

Reynolds was speaking about vaccine hesitancy. She invited Iowa National Guard Adjutant Gen. Ben Corell to speak at the same press conference. His story of contracting COVID-19, becoming very ill and being hospitalized was intended to encourage Iowans to get vaccinated.

But the governor’s message isn’t striking a chord with everyone. Karla Damiano, a married mother of four who lives in Iowa Falls, said she does not plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine, no matter what Reynolds or anyone else says.

“I’ve literally done all the research that I need to know I’m not getting the vaccine,” she said.

“There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t want to take the vaccine. Number one being that for me, my age group, it’s 99.98 percent survival rate of COVID,” said Damiano, who is 48. “So even if I were to acquire COVID, I would likely be fine. For me, it would be like getting the flu, and if you have a healthy immune system, you should be able to overcome it.”

Damiano said she’s been interested in holistic healing for years, and even became a health coach through a year-long course offered by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her family primarily uses essential oils, non-GMO and organic foods, exercise and regular trips to the chiropractor to maintain their health. So the idea of being injected with a vaccine doesn’t appeal to her.

“We don’t even know the long-term effects,” Damiano said of the vaccines.

Dr. Katie Haverkamp, a physician at Iowa Falls Clinic and Hansen Family Hospital, said she’s spoken with many people who, like Lauchner and Damiano, don’t plan to get vaccinated.

“I tell people, ‘You have to have a really good reason not to get the vaccine,’” Haverkamp said, clarifying that a “really good reason” is an allergy to one of the vaccines’ ingredients, namely polyethylene glycol or polysorbate. Aside from that, Haverkamp said vaccination is about more than protecting yourself.

“It’s a socially right thing to do to try and do the right things to prevent spread of disease,” Haverkamp said.

On the topic of the vaccines’ safety, Haverkamp points to a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last month. After reports of a serious blood clotting issue in six people of the 7 million who’d received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a halt to administration of the vaccine. That stop was lifted last week following an investigation.

“If they were willing to stop the vaccine for one in a million people,” look at how safe it is,” she said. “How many of us do we know who have had complications or died from COVID?”

Haverkamp said that while many of a community’s most vulnerable residents may have received the vaccine, that doesn’t guarantee they’re safe from COVID-19. The vaccines have been shown to have a 70-90 percent efficacy rate, but only in healthy people. Elderly people or people with compromised immune systems may not have the same level of protection. Haverkamp said that’s why it’s important for everyone to be vaccinated. And, there's no guarantee a seemingly healthy person won't get seriously ill from the virus.

“The vaccine works very, very, very well, but it’s not 100 percent,” she said. “You don’t get to pick which disease you get. You don’t get to pick how bad it is or who you spread it to. Although we’re opening up and feeling safer, you still don’t want to be the person getting it and rolling the dice on what you’re going to get and the longevity of symptoms.”

The Centers for Disease Control has not released COVID-19 survival rates associated with COVID-19 because analysis of data - including age and any underlying medical conditions - in each case is complex. 

But Lauchner and Damiano said the vaccine still doesn't sit well with them and it's a risk they're willing to take. Both have had conversations with friends and family about their decisions and neither said they’ve felt pressured or shunned for not getting the shot.

“I think we all have a pretty good understanding that we get to make this choice for ourselves,” said Lauchner, who has two grown children – one who is leaning toward getting the vaccine, and other who is not.

“I don’t think anyone has pressured me to get it. People know what to expect from me because that’s how I live my life,” Damiano said of her decision not to get vaccinated. “I know a ton of family and friends who’ve gotten it. That’s their decision. I’m totally OK with that.”

(6) comments

Ruth kloetzer

Get the vaccine, don't get the vaccine. Both sides were invited to have a voice in this article. Each side respectfully gave their opinion. If you don't agree with someone it's ok, but can we be kind and respectful? Read, learn, and make an informed decision. One person should not have to put down another person in order to defend their own position. Although I am not pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine I have no problem with those that are one or the other. Dr. Haverkamp was asked for her input, I do not see that as her "willingness to pressure me to receive a vaccine". Let's continue to be informed and act kindly. ~Ruth Kloetzer

Sarah Hensley

I do see her input as a willingness to pressure people because she was basically saying that most people don’t have a good reason to not get vaccinated. This is not an accurate picture of reality, where actually we all have many good reasons we could use once we are informed. The two sides in this article were not weighted evenly; we weren’t hearing from two doctors with opposing viewpoints. The community members’ thoughts could have been compared to two community members who chose to be vaccinated. I felt that given the weight of her words as a doctor, it was important to comment with facts that were omitted, and an encouragement to others to not feel such pressure. I have no idea if her patients have personally felt pressure in her office (I hope not), but her public comments did make me wonder. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with Dr. Haverkamp offering her recommendation to be vaccinated, but any sense of pressure- especially for a controversial personal health decision that comes with risk- is not necessary. We do not all sense the emergency that Dr. Haverkamp senses. I agree that being informed and being kind is important. I understand how it may *seem* unkind to say what I have said, but there is a bigger picture of kindness vs unkindness to consider with her words and mine. I have noticed that a lot of useful information has been withheld and/or had its importance minimized. I have also been personally disturbed by the social pressure that exists to wear a mask and get vaccinated. Many, many people are doing things that they aren’t sure they should do, out of fear of judgement more than illness. I am commenting to offer support and understanding for any part of the community that may need to hear that there are health care providers who would not recommend the vaccine and who have chosen not to be injected with it. I also just want to say please don't think that everyone who sees you choosing not to wear a mask or get vaccinated thinks that you care less about your health or the health of those around you, or that you are ignorant. Some of us care just as much, if not more in some cases, and our concern directs our choices.

Mike Wiarda

First, I wish to share my name with my comment. My name is Anne Wiarda. I am fully vaccinated and glad I am. I refuse to make this a debate about government vs. health. My health is important to me, important enough to protect myself and those in my everyday life; at home, in public and at the school I work at. I am thankful that Dr. Haverkamp, and other staff at Hansen Family Hospital, encourage us to protect those things as well. I believe the health care providers want just provide us health care.

Sarah Hensley

Covid cases and death counts have been inflated by questionable methods all along, and I'm assure the same applies in India. It seems quite ignorant to many of us to believe that the news means what news outlets tell us it means, when much of it very well may be propaganda. Regardless, if I was a patient of Dr. Haverkamp's, I would resent her willingness to pressure me to receive a vaccine that is not FDA approved and is technically experimental. The fact that it is only currently approved for emergency use should indicate to each person that we are of sound mind when declining a vaccine for an emergency that we are not even convinced exists. Her assurance of safety is pretty gutsy, because not even the FDA will offer that assurance yet! I have heard her say other things to Times Citizen that are flat-out offensive, including that others may not want to breathe our breath. Sorry but we all share each other's breath whether or not we wear masks, and those words are just another manipulation tactic. People need to do their own thinking- not everyone is looking out for YOU, something is very wrong in our world right now and you're not crazy if you don't think it's the virus. You have a lot of good reasons to be questioning all of this- be encouraged.

Sarah Hensley

Dr. Haverkamp says "it’s a socially right thing to do," but it is also a socially right thing to do to decline the vaccine. It is false that "you have to have a really good reason not to get the vaccine." You don't need to explain yourself; being unsure is a VERY good reason to not get the vaccine. It is much wiser to only get the vaccine if you can become fully convinced. The government knows this is their problem- convincing people- and that's why they are spending enormous amounts of money on "vaccine confidence." That fact alone is enough to provoke doubt. I will not be getting the vaccine because I don't need it, and because it is experimental.

john kruckenberg

i was on the fence about getting the vaccine, but just did so in the last couple of days. i'm sorry, but after seeing what India is going through, and the position of privilege we are in to even have the vaccine as an option, it seems quite ignorant to refuse it.

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