April 09, 2021
Moments after Cynthia Hartner received the first of her two Pfizer vaccination shots Thursday morning, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., stopped to introduce himself to the Diamond resident.
Even though she was wearing a mask, it was obvious she was smiling. She told him she definitely knew who he was: “All these years, and I’m finally happy to meet you.”
After asking several questions concerning the vaccination procedure at Mercy Hospital Joplin, Blunt thanked Hartner for doing her part in helping slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed more than 9,000 Missouri residents since early last year.
“I just think it’s absolutely important that we do this,” he told her.
Hartner said some people out there are still hesitant about getting vaccinated, either because they don’t fully understand the science behind the three available vaccines or simply because they don’t trust them.
“But to have (Blunt) out here, telling everyone to get their vaccinations,” she said, readily impressed her. More public officials need to be doing the same thing, she added.
Blunt spent more than an hour in Joplin touring the regional hospital’s vaccination clinic, as well as speaking with front-line staff and hospital officials.
Since the moment the novel coronavirus first gained a foothold in North America, Blunt has been a strong proponent of the vaccination effort, urging Missouri residents to get vaccinated against the virus. He praised the bipartisan efforts it took by Congress to pave the way for the creation, testing and distribution of the three vaccines.
During his time as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Blunt led efforts to provide $47.6 billion for coronavirus vaccine and treatment development and procurement, and $8.75 billion for vaccine distribution in the five bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills signed into law last year.
“The idea that a year ago we would have a vaccine within the (pandemic’s) first year is almost unbelievable — two years would have been a record, and three years would have been normal,” Blunt said during a news conference after the hospital tour. “And of course, right now, if we were still looking at another couple of years before we would be getting the vaccine — and the pandemic continued to surround us — imagine the problems we would be facing.”
Blunt said the vaccines — the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna versions, and the single-shot Johnson & Johnson version — are safe and FDA-approved.
“While in our country, and certainly where we live in Southwest Missouri, we wouldn’t want to tell people they had to take the vaccine, I will say (getting vaccinated) not only protects you but allows us to eliminate the virus by eliminating the places where the virus can take hold.”
The idea of a “community immunity,” he said, “only occurs when you have enough people in the community that can’t possibly catch the virus and help the virus to spread. and the vaccines are the way to do that.”
Blunt’s message coincides with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s recent decision to allow any adult in Missouri wanting a COVID-19 vaccine to be eligible to do so, beginning Friday, without any age requirements or restrictions.
“The quicker we move through this,” Blunt said, “the quicker we’ll be in a position where we can have the family associations and community associations and relationships that we would all like to have.”