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 10:31 AM

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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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350970

Reported Deaths: 5973
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion47763893
Lake30007480
Allen20256333
Elkhart18510245
St. Joseph18319243
Hamilton14971181
Vanderburgh10862134
Tippecanoe991133
Porter915392
Johnson7484177
Hendricks7143163
Vigo6580105
Monroe591453
Madison5732125
Clark564884
Delaware5434108
LaPorte5171104
Kosciusko501846
Howard400578
Bartholomew367565
Warrick360574
Wayne355192
Floyd348878
Marshall333949
Cass319132
Grant315652
Hancock307762
Noble284750
Boone274656
Henry272141
Dubois262934
Jackson255237
Morgan251845
Dearborn249733
Gibson217033
Shelby212861
Knox207722
DeKalb204438
Clinton202224
Lawrence200549
Wabash190623
Miami188118
Adams187424
Daviess174246
Montgomery167029
Jasper165015
Ripley164521
Fayette163837
Steuben163016
Harrison162024
LaGrange156533
Whitley156516
Huntington147211
White147024
Putnam142530
Wells142533
Decatur141846
Randolph139524
Clay138026
Jefferson137618
Posey133620
Scott124024
Greene117954
Jay113315
Sullivan109018
Jennings102415
Starke100828
Spencer9578
Fulton94219
Fountain9228
Perry88021
Washington8789
Franklin79528
Carroll79313
Orange74428
Vermillion72810
Owen71410
Parke6796
Tipton66527
Blackford62715
Rush6278
Newton62113
Pike57421
Pulaski48020
Benton4423
Brown3995
Martin3896
Crawford3421
Union2972
Switzerland2765
Warren2763
Ohio2477
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