Despite recent COVID-19 case numbers, suspicions about vaccines, and the disease itself, is keeping people from taking action, Gov. Asa Hutchinson heard at his “COVID Conversation” stop in Clinton Aug. 9.
The governor’s visit, at the Clinton High School cafeteria, was one of several across the state, a town hall format outreach to overcome vaccine hesitancy. The governor was joined by Doctor Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist.
In opening remarks, Hutchinson said he understood people not wanting the government telling them what to do. He then countered the statement with numbers showing the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections in the county since June.
The county, with a 32 percent vaccination rate, below the Arkansas already-low 40 percent vaccination rate was well below the goal of a 50 percent vaccination rate for the state hoped for by July 30, Hutchinson said.
Vermont, with a 68 percent vaccination rate, was seeing much lower COVID-infection case loads than Arkansas, the governor said.
Dillaha spoke to some of the concerns and rumors about vaccination, including there being “zero” evidence that the vaccine affects fertility in woman, and an interesting point about the vaccine was being used for mind control.
“If the vaccine was being used for mind control, then everyone would be vaccinated,” Dillaha said.
Questions and statements from the audience included concerns about the vaccine’s viability, including its “experimental nature.”
Final approval is expected in the next few weeks, and meanwhile 97 to 98 percent of hospitalizations were for non-vaccinated, Hutchinson said.
A member of the audience backed up the governor’s assertion, pointing out that research into COVID vaccines have gone on for many years, COVID-19 being only its most recent variant.
A suggestion was made, which the governor returned to several times, that a statement from his office regarding the divisive nature of COVID policy be made. While no hard reconciliation was made, the governor did, and several times, acknowledge the divisiveness of COVID-19, including mask and vaccine policies.
More extreme charges to the governor included that he was, in effect, “paid to feed us” vaccine information, that the vaccine was not real and was only being used as a way to get people rich by “pushing fear and control.”
Several in the room applauded the statement.
One woman asserted that she would use cattle dewormer before trusting a vaccine.
The governor and Dillaha both spoke to this, that the chemical people have identified in cattle dewormer has not been proven effective in treating the disease.
The public comments ended on a somber tone as a woman relayed to the governor and audience how she had just gotten word on the way to the meeting that “another” friend of hers had died due to COVID-19.
“This is serious,” she said.
Representatives of Clinton Drug and Fairfield Bay Pharmacy had set up in the back of the room prior to the meeting, in order to give vaccines to anyone who asked. At meeting end they reported no requests for vaccination had been made that night.