TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) – Free lottery tickets for those who get vaccinated had few buyers. The free hunting and fishing licenses did not change the opinion of many either. And with Arkansas being the red state, mandatory vaccinations are off the table.
So, the Republican governor. Asa Hutchinson has hit the road and met face-to-face with residents to try to overcome vaccine hesitancy (in many cases hostility) in Arkansas, which has the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases. lower in the US for dispensing drinks.
He will meet with residents like Harvey Woods, who was among the five dozen people who gathered in a ballroom at the convention center in Texarkana Thursday night. Most of the audience was not masked, and neither was Hutchinson, who has been vaccinated.
Woods, 67, introduced himself to Hutchinson as “anti-vax” and said he believes there are too many questions about the effects of the vaccine and that he does not believe the federal government information on them is reliable.
Hutchinson and his top health official tried to reassure Woods about the Food and Drug Administration’s review process. But Hutchinson had a question for Woods.
“Do you think COVID is real?” asked the governor.
“I’m not afraid of it,” said Woods, who later said he contracted the virus last year.
Hutchinson embarked on the state tour as assumed the position of president of the National Association of Governors. In that position, he has made the fight against vaccine resistance a priority.
Studies have shown that vaccines are very safe and effective. But misinformation continues to cast doubt on themespecially in rural and conservative areas. Hutchinson has urged the FDA to give the vaccines full approval rather than emergency authorization, saying that would address one of the arguments used by opponents.
On the forums, Hutchinson tries to empathize with the anti-government and anti-media sentiment of vaccine skeptics. His message: listen to your own doctors and medical professionals, not conspiracy theories.
“Let me make sure it’s clear: I’m not asking you to trust the government,” he told the Texarkana audience. “I’m asking you to look around, do your own research, talk to people you trust, and for me that’s the right approach.”
The approach is different from other Republicans who portray healthcare leaders as adversaries even as they try to squash cases.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been selling “Don’t Fauci My Florida” t-shirts and other products. In Missouri, the governor. Mike Parson has suggested that some health officials are trying to scare people into getting vaccinated. In Tennessee The top vaccine official was fired amid the anger of the Republican Party for her efforts to vaccinate teens.
With the highly contagious delta variant rapidly increasing the case count nationwide and filling hospital beds in places like Arkansas and neighboring Missouri, only 35% of the Arkansas population is fully vaccinated. Only Mississippi and Alabama are lower, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 98% of the people hospitalized in Arkansas since January due to COVID-19 were not vaccinated.
Hutchinson has few tools left at his disposal after enacting legal measures restricting his own authority to respond to the pandemic. They include bans in public schools and other government agencies. mandatory masks or requiring vaccinations.
A largely unmasked audience of about 100 gathered at one of its town halls in Batesville, a city of 11,000 about 90 minutes outside of Little Rock.
Nathan Grant, a 66-year-old retired accountant from Batesville, said he didn’t know anything Hutchinson could tell him that could change his mind. Grant has resisted getting the vaccine despite contracting COVID-19 last year. He said he did not trust any of the advice coming from Washington.
“They have not fired directly at us. The CDC has not fired directly at us. Fauci didn’t shoot us directly. They’ve changed their stories multiple times, “said Grant, next to whom sat a fellow vaccine skeptic in a baseball cap that read” Trump: No more bulls – t. “
Some opponents of the forums do not rule out the vaccine. In Texarkana, a woman said she had not received the vaccines because of concerns about how they would interact with her allergies. Doctors in the audience encouraged her to speak with her doctor.
The forums are also attracting vaccinated residents who are concerned about the increase in cases in the state and exasperated by the lack of options to stop the increase.
Kameron Bethel, a mother of six in Batesville, asked if there was a way to get an exemption to vaccinate her 10-year-old son. He also asked the governor to reinstate the mask mandate he lifted in March.
“Yes, we are a great community, but I think that if we don’t work together and succeed, everything will collapse,” he said.
The forum was enough to sway Teresa Cox and her daughter, who got vaccinated at a mobile clinic after the Texarkana city hall. Cox said he doesn’t trust Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top COVID-19 expert, but he did trust the doctors who spoke at the event.
“What they said there scared me,” Cox said. “I have been against vaccines the entire time, but I have also been on a ventilator three times and I never want to use a ventilator again. Do not forget “.
Calling all HuffPost super fans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost