TEXARKANA, Arkansas, US (AP) – Giving up lottery tickets for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 hasn’t attracted much interest. And the free delivery of hunting and fishing licenses didn’t change the opinions of many either. And despite the high incidence in Arkansas, mandatory vaccination is out of the question in the Republican-leaning state.
That’s why Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson is on a tour to meet face-to-face with residents in an effort to overcome hesitation — and in many cases hostility — toward vaccines in Arkansas, which has the highest rate of cases. The United States however has one of the lowest vaccination rates.
Hutchinson spoke with residents like Harvey Woods, who was one of about fifteen people who attended Thursday night at a convention center in Texarkana. Most of the attendees did not wear masks, nor did Hutchinson who was vaccinated.
Woods, 67, came to Hutchinson as an “anti-vaccine” person and noted that there was a lot of skepticism about the effects of vaccinations and that he didn’t think the information about them from the federal government was reliable.
The governor and chief health official tried to reassure Woods about the FDA’s review process. However, Hutchinson asked Woods a question.
“Do you think Covid is real?” asked the governor.
“It doesn’t scare me,” said Woods, who later said he contracted the virus last year.
Hutchinson went on an official tour after taking over the presidency of the National Governors Association. In this role, Hutchinson advocated prioritizing the fight against vaccine resistance.
Studies have shown that vaccines are very safe and effective. But misinformation still casts doubt among the people, especially in conservative and rural areas. Hutchinson urged the FDA to fully approve the vaccines rather than authorizing their emergency use because that would, he said, combat one of the arguments made by vaccine opponents.