More than half of the Republican state senators in the Tennessee legislature signed an open letter on Tuesday calling on residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as cases once again surge in the state and across the country.
"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," the lawmakers wrote, according to a report in the Tennessean.
"The vaccines have been found to be safe and effective against COVID-19," they continued. "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."
They called for anyone without "religious objection or a legitimate medical issue" to get vaccinated. They also emphasized that vaccines were a "personal choice" and vowed that they would not implement any vaccine requirements.
This appeal for vaccinations comes just weeks after the state's leading COVID-19 vaccine official, Michelle Fiscus, was fired, reportedly to appease GOP lawmakers who were upset over her push for vaccinations.
Last week it was reported that Tennessee would resume vaccine advocacy for adolescents following nationwide backlash to the state's vaccine policy.
As the Tennessean reports, the letter was signed by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R), the Speaker pro tem, both of whom are retired pharmacists.
"Vaccines have been saving lives for over a century," the lawmakers continued in their letter. "As a result, polio and smallpox have been eradicated and measles, mumps and rubella are rare."
According to state data, 39 percent of Tennessee's population is fully vaccinated, and around 44 percent of the population has received at least one dose. At the current rate, it will take several months, possibly going into next year, before at least half the state is fully vaccinated.