NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Republican leaders in the Tennessee Senate have signed a letter urging state residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Although we have made progress, COVID-19 is not over,” the letter reads. “There has been a recent spike in the number of cases, which includes the virus’s more contagious delta variant. A strong majority of these cases are among those who are not vaccinated. And virtually all of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.”
The letter was signed by every member of the Republican Caucus team:
- Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (Oak Ridge)
- Richard Briggs (Knoxville)
- Jack Johnson (Brentwood)
- Todd Gardenhire (Chattanooga)
- Ken Yager (Kingston)
- Ed Jackson (Jackson)
- Ferrell Haile (Gallatin)
- Jon Lundberg (Bristol)
- Becky Massey (Knoxville)
- Page Walley (Bolivar)
- Bill Powers (Clarksville)
- Dawn White (Murfreesboro)
- Shane Reeves (Murfreesboro)
- Bo Watson (Hixson)
- Paul Rose (Covington)
- Art Swann (Alcoa)
Tennessee has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States, with only 43.9% of the population having received at least one dose and 38.9% of people fully vaccinated. Nationwide, 56.9% of Americans have received at least one dose and 49.2% are fully vaccinated. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tennessee is among the bottom 10 states for doses administered per 100,000 residents.
After weeks of declining new cases, the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee has started to increase once again. The state reported a more than 100% increase in daily new cases from the previous week. More than 12,710 Tennesseans have died from COVID-19 so far.
Among the Tennessee Senate Republicans, 11 did not sign the letter:
- John Stevens (Huntingdon)
- Steve Southerland (Morristown)
- Kerry Roberts (Springfield)
- Mark Pody (Lebanon)
- Frank Niceley (Strawberry Plains)
- Brian Kelsey (Germantown)
- Joey Hensley (Hohenwald)
- Rusty Crowe (Johnson City)
- Janice Bowling (Tullahoma)
- Mike Bell (Riceville)
- Paul Bailey (Sparta)
Read the full letter below:
Although we have made progress, COVID-19 is not over. There has been a recent spike in the number of cases, which includes the virus’s more contagious delta variant. A strong majority of these cases are among those who are not vaccinated. And virtually all of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.
As people across our state are exposed to the spread of this deadly virus, we strongly urge Tennesseans who do not have a religious objection or a legitimate medical issue to get vaccinated.
The vaccines have been found to be safe and effective against COVID-19. If they had been available from the start and widely used, over 600,000 American families that are mourning the loss of a loved one, along with tens of thousands of people who are awaiting lung transplants, or trying to learn to walk again, would have avoided that heartache.
Vaccines have been saving lives for over a century. As a result, polio and smallpox have been eradicated and measles, mumps and rubella are rare. Building on these 20th century medical breakthroughs, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed utilizing high standards and the best medical technology available.
Even the new mRNA technology, which has caused some people to be vaccine hesitant, has been around for decades. The mRNA vaccines teach your body how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response, without using a live virus. This technology is found in essentially every pharmacy, medical office and laboratory. Recombinant DNA technology has almost completely replaced insulin obtained from animal sources for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes with great success for over 30 years.
We are well beyond the COVID-19 vaccine trial stage. Nearly 338 million doses of the vaccines have been administered in the U.S. with few adverse effects. Please compare the very rare instances of side effects with the more than 600,000 deaths in the U.S. which have occurred due to COVID-19. The facts are clear -- the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risks.
Under no circumstances will the state of Tennessee require mandatory vaccines or vaccine passports for adults or children. We recognize this is a personal choice. However, we urge every Tennessean to consider the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and talk to your doctor about their recommendations on the best way to protect yourself and your family against COVID-19.
Unfortunately, efforts to get more people vaccinated have been hampered by politicization of COVID-19. This should not be political. Tennesseans need factual information to make educated decisions regarding their health. Please consider looking at the facts which are presented by Vanderbilt University Medical Center or the New England Journal of Medicine, both which are among the most respected health resources worldwide.
Every life lost to this virus is tragic. The COVID-19 vaccines save lives. Again, we strongly urge all Tennesseans to study the facts, talk to your doctor and get vaccinated.