Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political'

Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonDozens of Republican governors call for meeting with Biden on border surge The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden's .5 trillion plan will likely have to shrink Sunday shows - Manchin says he won't vote for .5 trillion bill MORE (R) lamented that it was “disappointing” that politics played a role in whether or not people decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

During an interview with Greta Van Susteren on her show "Full Court Press" set to air on Sunday, Hutchinson said that Arkansas’s political leaning might explain the state's lower vaccination rate.

“Why is our vaccination rate lower? We're a very rural state. We have a lot of resistance. It's a conservative state. Sometimes conservatives are hesitant about the government, and we’ve just got to counteract that by getting better information to them, building confidence,” Hutchinson said during the interview.

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“I've learned that it's not what the government tells you, it's what your trusted advisor, your medical doctor, or somebody that you trust tells you. And that's the best persuasive technique we can use to change those attitudes,” he continued.

Van Susteren asked the Republican governor if the choice to get vaccinated fell along party lines.

“...Does that mean it's sort of a Trump-Biden thing in some parts, that the people who support Trump won't get the vaccine, or some at least, and those who supported Biden will get the vaccine? Is it that bad along political lines?” Van Susteren asked.

“Well, it is disappointing that there's a political part to it,” he replied, adding that he supported former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE and he received the vaccine.

“Arkansas, 65 percent or more of the vote goes for Trump, and tens of thousands of those have been vaccinated. So you just can't put it across the board as far as attitudes on that,” Hutchinson noted.

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Arkansas is one of a number of states that continues to see a surge in new COVID-19 cases. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that state recorded 1,987 new cases on Friday. The last time the state reached this kind of infection rate was in early February, when Arkansas recorded over 2,400 new cases. 

Data from John Hopkins University reports that only 36 percent of Arkansas’s population is fully vaccinated.

Hutchinson also said that the number of hospitalizations in his state were especially worrisome. The governor acknowledged that hospitalizations were not at levels seen in January, but argued “that doesn't mean we've got a cushion.”

“I think it was over 1,300 hospitalized at the height of the pandemic last January. We've got 800 and some now, but that doesn't mean we've got a cushion. Because there's been so many postponed health needs that are crashing in on the hospital. So, the hospitals are totally full and they have to then make room for the COVID patients. And that creates its own set of problems," he said.

Hutchinson said that those who who were going to the hospital were people who had not received the vaccine.

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Despite the rising number of cases and low vaccination rate, he argued that he did not wanted to get involved in a “side debate” over whether masks should be mandated in the state.

“...It is important that we encourage vaccinations. And we've got some medical professionals in the CDC that talk about whether you've been vaccinated or not, wear a mask. I think that's the wrong message. If you've been vaccinated, that gives you the freedom not to wear a mask and that's an incentive to go ahead,” Hutchinson said. 

Federal health officials have said that an overwhelming majority of coronavirus deaths were among the unvaccinated. CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyPfizer results offer hope amid worsening pandemic for children FDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE said earlier this month that coronavirus outbreak will become a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," and encouraged Americans to get the jab.