Editorial: It’s imperative to get vaccine

Published 7:51 pm Monday, April 5, 2021

Now, more than ever, it’s imperative for Louisianans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines have undergone extensive testing and are the best line of defense against a virus that has uprooted everyday life and resulted in countless deaths worldwide over the past 12 months.

Another must is for elected officials at all levels and political affiliations to encourage people to get the vaccine and reassure them of its safety and effectiveness. It’s especially important since a recent survey by Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Lab showed more than 40 percent of Republicans said they don’t plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Conversely, 13 percent of Democrats said they don’t intend to get the shot. These numbers show why it’s critical for our GOP elected leaders to step up and encourage their constituents to get the vaccine. Several have already done so.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy filmed an ad that promoted vaccinations. The newly-elected 5th Congressional District Rep. Julia Letlow recently urged her GOP colleagues to get the vaccine. Letlow’s husband, Luke, was elected to the seat in 2020, but died from COVID-19 complications five days before he was set to be sworn in.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise recently said the vaccines were safe and plans to have his vaccination shown to the public as motivation for people to get it.

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, who represents Louisiana’s 3rd District, told the American Press editorial board on Thursday that his office has “aggressively promoted” the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines. He wouldn’t say whether he has received the vaccine, adding that he is “naturally immunized” after having the virus last January. That statement, he said, came from his own medical understanding of the virus and advice from his doctors and scientists.

Higgins said he wants every American who wants to get the vaccine to have access to it, adding that the process behind developing the vaccines was “scientifically sound.” At the same time, Higgins said he doesn’t know the difference between a good and bad vaccine. He mentioned television ads with attorneys telling viewers they may be eligible for a cash settlement if they experienced side effects of taking a particular prescription drug.

Statements like this may scare some people away from getting vaccinated. It sets a dangerous precedent, especially as transmission risk remains moderate to high in Louisiana.

Higgins said Americans should be free to decide whether they want to be vaccinated, based on their own best interests and advice from their doctor. While getting vaccinated is a personal choice, it’s disappointing that Higgins, whose district includes Southwest Louisiana, won’t encourage his supporters to get it.

The Louisiana Department of Health Region 5, which includes Southwest Louisiana, has a lower vaccination percentage than other regions in the state. Part of that may be because we’re still recovering from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, along with a freeze in February. That doesn’t mean residents should ignore getting the vaccine completely.

More than 10,000 Louisianans have died from COVID-19 complications, including nearly 400 in Calcasieu Parish. Gov. John Bel Edwards recently expanded vaccine availability to residents 16 and older. There is no excuse for residents to not get it, if only to protect their loved ones from being infected.

Elected leaders have powerful voices. It’s time for them to use their platforms to encourage their supporters to get the COVID-19 vaccine.””Vaccine