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: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

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