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OPINION | JOHN BOOZMAN: Strengthen trust

Covid-19 vaccine nothing to fear by JOHN BOOZMAN SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | January 2, 2021 at 8:44 a.m.

When I posted a photo of my covid-19 vaccination to my social media accounts, I had hoped to start a conversation. Judging from the reaction it received, particularly the hundreds of comments it garnered on Facebook, the picture certainly has seemed to achieve its intended results.

So, let's continue that conversation.

My vaccination was administered at the U.S. Capitol complex by the Office of the Attending Physician. These doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were sent to the Capitol specifically for members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and others serving in key positions as part of the continuity of government plans.

This shipment is entirely separate from those going out to the states for front-line workers and they are not available to spouses or family.

Doses continue to be administered to health-care personnel and front-line workers in Arkansas as planned. Arkansas received about 25,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in its first shipment, and more than 4,000 Arkansas health-care workers received a shot within the first four days of inoculations.

Arkansas received its first shipment of the recently approved Moderna covid-19 vaccination last week which, along with a second shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, will greatly help speed up the process.

I firmly believe that, as a vocal advocate of the vaccination program, it would be disingenuous to not step up and get inoculated early on. As public servants, our actions must match our words. It would be insincere of me to call on others to do something that I, myself, was unwilling to do.

Trust in our institutions is at an all-time low, and the only way public servants can rebuild that confidence is through action. Everyone in a leadership position should be stepping forward and showing the American people that they can indeed trust the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines.

Judging from the reaction under my original posts, there are still a number of Arkansans who have serious concerns about getting a covid-19 vaccination.

This is entirely understandable, given that vaccines usually take a decade or more to develop. But I assure you, there were no shortcuts taken in the development or approval process. The revolutionary manner in which these vaccines were produced has the potential to be a game-changer for the future.

The covid-19 pandemic mobilized researchers to counter this virus in an unprecedented way. The vaccine timeline was cut down significantly by the breakthroughs on the front end. The same thorough, rigorous benchmarks for clinical trials and proof of effectiveness had to be met by these vaccines.

The scientific advancements that enabled the swift development of these vaccines ought to be celebrated, not feared.

These accomplishments are a testament to American ingenuity, resolve and our propensity to meet a challenge head-on. We would not be in this position so quickly without the work of incredibly intelligent researchers, the courageous commitment of trial participants, and a historic public-private partnership to get this heavy lift off the ground.

Operation Warp Speed brought all this together. It is hard to say how far along we'd be in the process without the program's multibillion-dollar investment in research and development. Similarly, moving at this rapid pace would have been impossible without the federal government's commitment to pre-purchase a future vaccine and streamline regulatory authorization.

The year 2020 was an extremely difficult year, but there is hope on the horizon. I have confidence in the science behind these vaccines. Likewise, I have trust in the medical experts who have evaluated and approved them for use.

These vaccines are the path that we can take to get back to normalcy. That is why I chose to get inoculated in a public manner.

It is my hope that this helps reassure Arkansans, especially those who may be skeptical, to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

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John Boozman is the senior U.S. senator for the state of Arkansas.

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