NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee disclosed Tuesday that he received his second COVID-19 vaccination earlier this month, although he did not use the occasion to encourage vaccine-hesitant fellow Tennesseans to get inoculated against the pandemic.
"It's a personal, private decision, and that's what I did, that's how I made it," the Republican said in response to questions about why he didn't tweet photos or video of his second vaccination.
He said it was done last Friday or Saturday. Last year, Lee tweeted out a photo when he got a flu shot.
A number of elected officials, then-Republican Vice President Mike Pence among them, have publicly received their vaccine shots before cameras. Celebrities such as singer Dolly Parton have done so as well.
In late March, Lee revealed in response to a reporter's question that he had received his first shot. Again, it was not used as a promotional opportunity for the state's public health push.
The governor said the state is planning a public relations push for Tennesseans to get inoculated. His administration last year made a similar effort to persuade Tennesseans to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, spending at least $4.3 million on ads and social media messaging.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health's website, 34.4% of Tennesseans have had at least one vaccination. Tennesseans receiving both shots amounted to 24.7%.
Legislative Democrats said Tennessee is 47th out of 50 states for vaccinations, while the state has had the fourth-worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation per person. More than 12,100 Tennesseans have died since the pandemic began, Democrats said in an email.
Tennessee funded a study trying to determine what kinds of messages might get vaccine-hesitant residents to come around to the shots, viewed by many as rushed or unproven. The study found few promising opportunities to change made-up minds. The study found white, rural conservatives — Lee's political base — are most dead-set against the vaccine.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.