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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: The grace to stand

by John Brummett | July 28, 2021 at 3:32 a.m.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state's epidemiologist got shouted at Monday at a covid town-hall meeting in Mountain Home.

The rudeness came from strong-lunged adherents of a school of paranoia that our government is using the vaccine to sterilize women.

I'd forgotten until reminded that, at the first of these town halls two weeks ago in Cabot, Hutchinson brought along an obstetrician-gynecologist from UAMS in anticipation of questions along the infertility line.

There were none. The doctor spoke blandly of the lack of any pregnancy threat from the vaccine. It was a simpler time and happier occasion.

Mountain Home was a different story and a national one. A clip of the live video of the proceeding got distributed nationally on prominent social media.

The clip was of the moment when Hutchinson and Dr. Jennifer Dillaha got called liars and agents of a cover-up for stating the simple fact that no medical evidence suggests the vaccine causes female infertility.

It's all very odd. The government has set 70 percent as the goal for vaccinations to achieve some version of herd immunity. Why would a society want to eliminate 70 percent of its next generation?

What seems to have happened is what commonly happens these days. A kernel of fact explodes when mixed with resentment and suspicion. The few people who believe it do so loudly.

It is true that many women reported irregular periods and abnormally heavy menstrual flow after receiving the covid vaccine.

That information got put on the Internet, as did the truth that doctors couldn't say for sure why it had happened, as they often can't, especially in early stages of study.

But they did assure that there was no medical basis for any linkage with infertility; that other vaccines have had similar short-term effects; that stress can affect hormone levels and the immune system; that clinical trials had shown no harm to pregnancies; that most of the reported abnormalities were later reported to have normalized, and that the clearer threat is covid's effect on pregnancies.

So, that's good news on the vaccine front, as were these elements from the Mountain Home event: Hutchinson and Dillaha stood their ground gracefully; the shouters were far outnumbered in the audience; a total of 154 persons got vaccinated before and after the town hall; and Hutchinson casually said that a conservative argument could be made that local people would best make local decisions about local children's health in local schools and that he'd be talking about that the next day with House Speaker Matthew Shepherd and Sen. Jimmy Hickey, the Senate president pro tem.

That set off excitement among parents who want the ban on masks in schools lifted as well as some alarm among local school officials who'd prefer the state handle the school-mask issue--either way--lest they get forced to deal with the shouters at much-closer range.

Hutchinson played down much significance to his comment. He said he meets with Shepherd and Hickey regularly about all manner of issues and that the matter of local control of masks at school would be just be another issue at just another meeting.

It's his style to be low-key and take his time--too low on the key and too much on the time, some would say.

But sometimes a casual comment punctuated by a shrugging explanation can mean he's up to something, or wouldn't mind being up to something if he could detect a sense of legislative cooperation.

The calculus is how to allow the districts that want to require masks to do so without forcing the districts that don't want the onus, deeming it a no-win, to have to take it.

That would be a delicate finesse, but these are the same guys who split the hate-crimes issue about a dozen ways and managed to pass something that was kind of a hate-crime law and kind of not.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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