Tennessee Won’t Promote COVID Vaccines But Pay To Vax Cows – .

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Tennessee has sent nearly half a million dollars to farmers who have vaccinated their livestock against respiratory and other illnesses in the past two years.
But Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who grew up on his family’s ranch and describes himself as a cattle rancher on his Twitter profile, has been much less enthusiastic about encouraging herd immunity in humans.

Even though Tennessee has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, Lee has refused to follow the lead of other states that have offered incentives for people to get the potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.

Lee has not always been against the urge for vaccination.

Tennessee’s Herd Health program began in 2019 under the leadership of Lee, whose family business, Triple L Ranch, breeds Polled Hereford cattle. The state currently reimburses participating farmers up to $ 1,500 for vaccinating their herds, distributing $ 492,561 in the past two years, according to documents from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Lee, who so far has avoided making a serious Republican challenge in his 2022 re-election bid, has been accused of complacency in the face of the deadly pandemic. Tennessee’s vaccination rates for COVID-19 hover at 39% of its total population, compared to more than 49% nationally for those fully vaccinated. COVID-related hospitalizations in the state have more than tripled in the past three weeks and infections have more than quintupled.

Speaking at the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association annual conference Friday, Lee said he didn’t think the incentives were very effective, WBIR-TV reported. “I don’t think that’s the role of government,” he added. “The role of government is to make it available and then encourage people to get vaccinated. “

In an email response to a question about the contrast to the incentive to vaccinate for livestock, spokesperson Casey Black wrote: “The people of Tennessee have a vested interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine – it is free and available in every corner of the state with virtually no waits. While a veterinarian can weigh in safely raising livestock for consumption, the state will continue to provide humans in Tennessee with information and access about the COVID-19 vaccine. “

But Lee has avoided employing any of these tactics and has maintained throughout the pandemic that the decision to vaccinate against COVID-19 is a personal choice.

“We want to encourage Tennesseans to talk to their doctor, to talk to their clergy, to talk to their family members, the trusted voices in their lives, so that they make a personal decision as to whether they want to or no get vaccinated. “, He recently told reporters,” but we encourage this because it is the tool that will allow us to most effectively manage this virus. “

Lee was vaccinated against COVID-19 but has not made it public, as he did when he received his flu shot.

More recently, Lee’s administration came under fire after the state’s immunization chief was fired in what she called an attempt to appease GOP lawmakers who were outraged by the COVID-19 vaccination with minors. At a hearing in June, a Republican lawmaker called an advertisement promoting adolescent immunizations “objectionable” and some went so far as to suggest they could withdraw funding from the Department of Health.

Dr Michelle Fiscus has expressed what she believes to be the political reasons for her dismissal, sharing her reviews of positive performance with the press. Fiscus also called on the Department of Health to stop awareness for all childhood vaccinations, not just COVID-19. The department has since resumed outreach, but says it is only targeting parents.

Lee was initially silent on the controversy. Then, at a recent press conference, Lee said he supported Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and her decisions, although he said there was no direct hand.

Dr Jason Martin, who has treated COVID-19 patients in Sumner County since the start of the pandemic, has been so disappointed with the state’s response that he is considering running for the post of himself. governor. The Democrat wants Lee to be “enthusiastic about urging the people of Tennessee to take a vaccine that is safe, effective and that saves lives,” he said. “It would help us defeat COVID, keep our businesses open and thriving, get our kids back to school safely. “

Black, Lee’s spokesperson, did not respond to whether the governor’s family farm received money from the Herd Health program, but Agriculture Department records show no one with the last name Lee as beneficiary.

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