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Iowa governor gets vaccinated and encourages others to do so

March 3, 2021 GMT
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and her husband Kevin Reynolds get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a news conference at Iowa PBS in Johnston, Iowa, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)
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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and her husband Kevin Reynolds get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a news conference at Iowa PBS in Johnston, Iowa, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)
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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and her husband Kevin Reynolds get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a news conference at Iowa PBS in Johnston, Iowa, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine during her weekly news conference Wednesday to encourage Iowans to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

Reynolds, her husband Kevin Reynolds and Iowa Department of Public Health Administrator Kelly Garcia were vaccinated during the televised event.

“I wanted to ensure Iowans that I believe it is a safe vaccine and not to be afraid to take it,” the governor said.

Reynolds said she wanted to wait to get vaccinated until after nursing home residents and staff, essential workers including teachers and school staff and other priority workers had the chance to get vaccinated.

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Reynolds said nearly half of U.S. governors have been vaccinated and the timing worked for her to get the Johnson & Johnson dose.

“Unfortunately, some critics are suggesting that the J&J vaccine is somehow inferior to those from Pfizer and Moderna because it’s efficacy rate is lower. This information is misleading and quite frankly it’s irresponsible,” said Reynolds, who has been criticized for disregarding or downplaying virus safeguards for much of the pandemic.

Iowa is one of several Republican-led states that have lifted most mask and distancing requirements against the advice of top health experts. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that lifting mask mandates now would be a mistake and urged state leaders to follow the science.

Iowa will get 25,600 Johnson & Johnson doses on Wednesday and Thursday that will be used to vaccinate workers in food manufacturing and agricultural production. The initial allotment will go to 51 companies in 17 counties, and vaccinations with it will begin Thursday, she said.

The total number of workers in 450 plants in the food and agricultural product sector total about 160,000, and it is expected to take about five weeks to finish vaccinating them.

As of Wednesday, Iowa had administered 741,000 vaccine doses to about 23% of its population age 18 and older. Nearly 70% of Iowans age 65 and older have received at least one dose, Reynolds said.

Iowa has the lowest rate of any state of people who have received both doses of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reynolds, though, said the rate is actually higher and blamed the lower figure on a data reporting problem.

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Iowa’s seven-day rolling average COVID-19 positivity rate has begun to rise again, going from 15.78% for the period that ended Feb. 16 to 20.02% for the period that ended Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa was one of eight states Wednesday with rising 14-day positivity rates.

Iowa on Wednesday reported 703 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths from the disease, pushing its pandemic total to 5,501 deaths.

Monday marks the one-year anniversary of Iowa’s first reported cases, and Reynolds asked Iowans to join her in remembering those who have died.