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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Republicans, especially men, are among the most reluctant to receive a COVID vaccine, Iowa and national polls show.

Why it matters: That runs counter to the dominant narrative that minority groups are the most hesitant, as explored last week in a New York Times podcast.

  • Individuals who aren't vaccinated face increased health risks, but the reluctance also affects the wider goal to reach herd immunity.
  • As Iowa opens vaccine eligibility to all adults next week, the state is quickly approaching a point where it'll soon shift its vaccination focus to those who have declined earlier opportunities.

By the numbers: 41% of Iowa Republicans don’t plan to be vaccinated compared with 8% of Democrats and 30% of independents, according to an Iowa Poll published by the Des Moines Register this month.

  • Among those groups, men lead in reluctancy.

What they're saying: Polk County Republican Party Chairwoman Gloria Mazza, who recovered from COVID and had a friend who died from it, doesn't plan to push for vaccinations among her group, arguing that peoples' concerns about potential unknown consequences must be respected.

  • "I'm not a rebel by any means. I know this stuff is real. I've lived it, but I also believe strongly in personal choice," she told Axios.

The big picture: The percent of the population that must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity remains under study, but is generally believed to be about 60-70%.

  • Almost 1 million Iowans are now at least partially vaccinated. Of those, about 60% are women. (Our population of adults is around 2.4 million.)
  • Reaching herd immunity may be through a "long, very difficult and remarkably unpleasant way" if people don't get vaccinated, John Rovers, a pharmacy professor at Drake told Axios.

What's next: Polk County health officials will soon launch outreach efforts to "any groups" that are hesitant, spokeswoman Nola Aigner Davis told Axios when asked about whether the department would target politically-affiliated organizations.

  • State officials are already working with community organizations to coordinate outreach to communities who face barriers in accessing a vaccine, Gov. Kim Reynolds said last week.
  • Reynolds didn't specifically mention her party as an outreach target. But she got vaccinated during a press conference earlier this month and has said it is the most important thing to ensure the state's recovery.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 rates of infection surge in New Jersey, New York

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past diners eating outdoors in Brooklyn. Photo: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even as vaccination rates have accelerated, rising coronavirus infection rates in New Jersey and New York have made them the top two states for new infections per capita, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: New York was an epicenter of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. Potent variants are now circulating and the recent rise in cases is likely the result of new reopening measures coupled with the public's decreasing caution, per AP.

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

New Jersey parents sue school districts to force them to reopen

A student has their temperature taken while entering a New York City public high school in New York, U.S., on Monday, March 22, 2021. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Successful lawsuits waged by parents in three New Jersey school districts have prompted returns to some in-person classes, and invited interest from parents across the state seeking to do the same, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Parents in 30 districts in New Jersey have sought guidance from the plaintiffs in the original suits on how to organize similar efforts, illustrating the frustration of parents who feel virtual schooling has left their children "anxious, lonely and losing their zest for learning" the Journal writes.

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

The key to opening schools: Better air flow

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Getting kids back to in-person learning could hinge on upgrading the ventilation systems in school buildings.

Why it matters: This is a massive undertaking in the U.S., where school maintenance has been neglected and the average school building is 44 years old. Significant stimulus funds can be funneled to installing new A/C systems, but it may not happen by fall.