Indiana governor won’t back mandatory COVID-19 vaccine

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday night that he would not support requiring residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once such immunizations become available.

Posted: Oct 28, 2020 12:50 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday night that he would not support requiring residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once such immunizations become available.

The question of mandating such vaccines was asked during a debate among the Republican governor and his two election opponents as Indiana has continued to face steep increases in coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations stretching back to when Holcomb lifted nearly all of COVID-19 restrictions last month.

“It shouldn’t be mandated but should be encouraged when it is safe,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb has faced criticism from some conservatives around the state that he has exceeded his authority with a statewide mask mandate and executive orders such as the stay-at-home order he issued in March aimed at slowing the coronavirus spread.

Holcomb’s stance comes even though Indiana law already requires 11 vaccines for public school students, including those for whooping cough, tetanus, measles and meningitis.

The governor said he wanted to make sure the vaccine can be quickly made available around the state.

“We want to make sure that we’re ready to rock and roll when it does come to Indiana, getting it out to the front line, getting it out to the most vulnerable, getting it out to our schools and long-term care centers,” Holcomb said.

Democratic challenger Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, didn’t say whether he supported requiring a COVID-19 vaccine but said immunizations have been cost-effective life savers for many years. He said he hoped a coronavirus vaccine was available soon.

“We don’t know the full side-effect profiles yet and we don’t know all of those restrictions, but they are going to be coming,” Myers said.

Some opponents of Holcomb’s coronavirus actions have rallied around Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who has been firmly against the statewide mask mandate. He argued any vaccine will have side effects and health risks.

“It must be a citizen’s responsibility to determine what level of risk they’re willing to take, what level of risk they are willing to put their children under and government should not be involved in that decision,” Rainwater said.

State health officials on Tuesday added 51 coronavirus-related deaths to Indiana’s toll, which has reached 4,194, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections, since the state’s first death was reported in mid-March. Indiana’s number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has roughly doubled in the past month.

Tuesday’s night debate came a week after the three candidates sparred over Holcomb’s coronavirus orders and less than a week before Election Day, although at least 1.2 million votes have already cast with mail-in ballots or at early voting sites.

Holcomb has been able to keep up a front-runner campaign for a second four-year term with large advantages of name identification, fundraising and organization over Myers and Rainwater.

The hourlong debate was held with the three candidates and the moderator in separate areas of the WFYI-TV studio in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 precautions, according to organizers with the nonprofit Indiana Debate Commission.

Myers has argued that Holcomb shouldn’t have lifted nearly all of COVID-19 restrictions last month and should impose a statewide mask mandate that includes possible penalties for violators. Rainwater, meanwhile, maintains the governor has exceeded his authority with executive orders that include the statewide mask mandate.

The candidates split during Tuesday’s debate on the question of changing state laws that prohibit any possession or use of marijuana.

Myers said he supported allowing medical marijuana and removing criminal penalties for possessing small amounts. Rainwater called for complete legalization without any state regulation of marijuana sales.

Holcomb maintained his previous stance against any marijuana law changes as long as it is classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it’s not accepted for medical use and has a high potential for abuse.

Holcomb said he didn’t believe there was enough medical research into the effects of marijuana use, even though states such as Illinois and Michigan have already legalized its recreational use and Ohio permits medical marijuana.

“I’m very suspect about looking to legalize controlled substances for revenue reasons,” Holcomb said. “I don’t do things just because 34 other states have looked the other way and said we don’t need federal approval, we’ll break the law, in essence.”

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1183569

Reported Deaths: 22675
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4731949339
DuPage765421193
Will64803887
Lake59315919
Kane50595714
Winnebago28297438
Madison27896453
St. Clair25341466
McHenry24249265
Champaign18055124
Peoria16868262
Sangamon16094217
McLean14560157
Tazewell13490239
Rock Island13042286
Kankakee12468189
Kendall1101685
LaSalle10764219
Macon9432185
Vermilion8547115
DeKalb8241112
Adams7997114
Williamson6789119
Boone591971
Whiteside5917147
Clinton556689
Coles518491
Grundy510863
Knox5015131
Ogle500373
Jackson459860
Effingham449269
Macoupin434479
Henry432256
Marion4257111
Livingston418176
Franklin414265
Stephenson408575
Monroe405883
Jefferson3972115
Randolph395878
Woodford366360
Morgan358276
Montgomery348667
Lee334343
Logan330653
Bureau330073
Christian329767
Fayette306452
Perry304157
Fulton284344
Iroquois276960
Jersey249246
Douglas243432
McDonough231740
Lawrence229524
Saline229247
Union218436
Shelby213634
Crawford200522
Bond190224
Cass188222
Pike168750
Clark168129
Wayne166948
Hancock166829
Warren166444
Richland163538
Jo Daviess160522
White160125
Washington158023
Ford157945
Carroll157434
Edgar154237
Moultrie148722
Clay142941
Greene137631
Johnson134712
Piatt132114
Wabash129912
Mason127841
Mercer127733
De Witt127622
Massac126933
Cumberland119118
Jasper110617
Menard10348
Marshall83614
Hamilton78715
Schuyler6755
Pulaski6705
Brown6606
Stark54022
Edwards52310
Henderson49814
Calhoun4782
Scott4481
Alexander4478
Gallatin4364
Putnam4143
Hardin34412
Pope2823
Out of IL70
Unassigned02215

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 660071

Reported Deaths: 12531
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion904161633
Lake48298874
Allen35720633
Hamilton31970396
St. Joseph29796510
Elkhart25331412
Vanderburgh21192377
Tippecanoe19927199
Johnson16312356
Porter15917269
Hendricks15785300
Clark11913180
Madison11717315
Vigo11562229
Monroe10300159
Delaware9824179
LaPorte9739196
Howard9038195
Kosciusko8539108
Bartholomew7424147
Hancock7399130
Warrick7399150
Floyd7180167
Wayne6622191
Grant6413157
Boone606888
Morgan6066124
Dubois5890111
Dearborn544466
Cass542899
Marshall5414104
Henry541392
Noble508476
Jackson464165
Shelby459890
Lawrence4174111
Gibson400981
Harrison397863
Clinton394453
Montgomery385083
DeKalb384378
Knox356285
Miami356163
Whitley348435
Huntington341876
Steuben337455
Wabash330576
Putnam328259
Ripley326461
Adams322149
Jasper314843
White297152
Jefferson293773
Daviess285096
Fayette271156
Decatur270188
Greene260780
Posey260431
Wells257174
Scott250050
LaGrange240770
Clay240344
Randolph225376
Spencer216930
Jennings214344
Washington209927
Sullivan202939
Fountain201042
Starke187250
Owen181953
Fulton177937
Jay177528
Carroll176218
Perry173335
Orange170950
Rush164322
Vermillion160141
Franklin159135
Tipton145941
Parke138615
Pike127432
Blackford120527
Pulaski106544
Newton96531
Brown94839
Benton91713
Crawford90313
Martin80114
Warren75312
Switzerland7527
Union66910
Ohio52911
Unassigned0433