Anti-vaccine activists hold Iowa Capitol rally
Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham, addressed a crowd of anti-vaccination activists at the Iowa State Capitol. (Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Several hundred Iowans gathered in the Capitol Rotunda before Tuesday's special session to rally against vaccine mandates.

“I'm thrilled to see all of you, but I'm actually aggravated that we have to be here at all. Who would have thought, in America, in Iowa, we would have to come to plead for our rights and our liberty?" said Tamara Scott, a national committeewoman for the Republican Party. A row of children stood behind her holding handmade signs that read “The final variant is communism" and “Proudly unpoisoned."

Lawmakers do not plan to consider legislation on vaccine requirements during today's special session.

Speakers at the rally called on Gov. Kim Reynolds or legislators to call another special session to consider the issue, and they encouraged the crowd to reach out to lawmakers. Several speakers noted that lawmakers had not been responsive to calls and emails from their group.

Two of Iowa's most vaccine-critical lawmakers, Rep. Sandy Salmon and Rep. Jeff Shipley, spoke at the event which was hosted by the anti-vaxx group Informed Choice Iowa. Shipley was a fan-favorite, with the crowd chanting “We want Jeff!" ahead of his appearance.

“We have not just COVID-19, but we have totalitarian fever, and that is what we have to eradicate," said Salmon, arguing that vaccine mandates violate the fourth amendment of the Constitution.

Shipley asked “why even bother" drawing new congressional maps if President Joe Biden will mandate legislation in Iowa. He told the crowd they were leaders for freedom and liberty.

“There are scared lines that must not be crossed. There is the sacred line of medical freedom," Shipley said. “Does anyone really think this vaccine mandate will be the end of it?"

What vaccine requirements does Iowa have?

The state government of Iowa has imposed no COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Reynolds has maintained throughout the pandemic that the decision to get vaccinated and the decision to wear a mask should be a personal choice.

Lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year to prohibit local governments and private businesses that receive government funding from requiring proof of vaccination. Iowa also passed a law that prohibits schools from requiring students or staff to wear masks. A federal judge has temporarily blocked that law.

But Iowa is affected by federal vaccine requirements. President Joe Biden instated a vaccination requirement for federal employees. Employees of large businesses must be vaccinated or receive weekly tests. Nursing homes that receive Medicaid or Medicare dollars must also ensure their staff is vaccinated against COVID-19.

Many private businesses also require employees to be vaccinated. Several large healthcare companies in Iowa, including UnityPoint and MercyOne, require vaccinations.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.