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Weekly Address

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10.29.2021

For the Health of Our State and Nation

For the past 21 months, we have been fighting a common enemy that has disrupted lives around the globe. One of the hindrances to beating COVID-19 has been a reluctance to get the vaccine.

During the polio epidemic in the 1940s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pleaded with Americans to help beat the disease. In a radio appeal for donations to National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, President Roosevelt compared the fight against polio to the Second World War, describing it as an enemy that showed no pity for the young. He said that the future of the nation depended on how Americans combated the disease.

In today’s world, we have a better grasp of how to beat a pandemic. I traveled around the state to encourage Arkansans to get vaccinated. At our meeting in Calhoun County, Judge Floyd Nutt admitted that initially, he thought the vaccination campaign was political, and that he and his wife had been hardheaded and refused to get the shot. But after discussions with his son-in-law, who is a doctor, the judge and his wife rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine. As of this week, about 57 percent of Arkansans have received at least one dose.

The truth is that vaccines work and that is the message we are trying to get across to everyone. This vaccine is important for our community and for the health of our state and nation and getting vaccinated should not be a partisan issue. Republican, Democrat, or Independent, COVID-19 hits us all the same.

I can’t make someone get vaccinated, and we will not overcome the challenge of hesitancy by mandates. I have consistently opposed a government mandate. However, businesses must be given the freedom to make their own decisions regarding their workplace and how to best protect their employees. The evidence that a mandate increases vaccinations are mixed. In the State of California where they have mandated for its state employees to be vaccinated, they have a vaccination rate of 66 percent. Here in Arkansas, we do not mandate a vaccine on state employees and our rate of vaccinations is almost at 67 percent. A vaccination mandate often increases the resistance of those who are hesitant.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the average age for hospitalizations was 64. Over time, that average dropped to 54 because those who are most vulnerable, the elderly population, got vaccinated while more young people were waiting for their turn at the vaccine.

Now, as the vaccine is being approved for kids ages 5-11, I urge parents to protect their children from COVID-19. If you are still hesitant, please talk to your family doctor or to someone that you trust.

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