Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said on Sunday that resistance to the coronavirus vaccine “has hardened” in some areas of the state, blaming the hesitancy on “false information” and “myths.”
“I don’t know if I underestimated it, but, certainly, the resistance has hardened in certain elements, and is simply false information,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN anchor Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Hutchinson said he was stunned at the outlandish claims made by Trump voters.
“It is myths. As I go into these town hall meetings, someone said: Don’t call it a vaccine. Call it a bioweapon. And they talk about mind control,” Hutchinson said. “Well, those are obviously erroneous. Other members of the community correct that.”
As the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is surging nationally, particularly in states with low vaccination rates such as Arkansas, Hutchinson called it “a pivotal moment” for the state with the school year nearing and said he’s been holding town hall meetings on the importance of getting vaccinated, which he argued has spurred an increase in vaccinations.
“What’s holding us back is a low vaccination rate. We’re doing all that we can,” Hutchinson said. “And I made the decision that it’s really not what the government can tell you to do, but it is the community and their engagement and citizens talking to other citizens and trusted advisers, whether it’s medical community or whether it’s employers. Those are key.”
However, Hutchinson argued residents who believe in conspiracy theories about the vaccine can be persuaded to get vaccinated.
“There’s more [people] that come to the town meeting that are trying to get information, that they have put it off or they’re hesitant. They’re worried about health consequences,” he said. “And so that’s where you have a community physician that answers the questions. … And so we’re seeing people that were previously resistant or hesitant about it coming in and getting the vaccination.”
Tapper pressed Hutchinson on the state’s ban on mask mandates, which the governor signed. Hutchinson called the move “the will” of the state Legislature and said the state’s “singular focus” is on vaccination.
“I really think it’s important not to have the current debate about mask-wearing, but to have the current emphasis on getting a vaccine,” he said.
Hutchinson’s remarks came as leaders in under-vaccinated states fight against surges in the coronavirus. Another red-state leader, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), last week argued it is “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the spread of the virus.