As Other Governors Pull Out Vaccine Media Blitz, Oklahoma’s Stitt Largely Silent

Simply over 4 months in the past, with the TV cameras running, Gov. Kevin Stitt sat all the way down to get his single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from a state well being division nurse.

The transfer earned the governor kudos from the state’s medical community and Democrats — two teams which have lengthy been important of Stitt’s COVID-19 response — as they hoped a popular red-state governor may assist persuade these on the fence to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Since then, it has been close to radio silence from the governor on social media and elsewhere with regards to vaccines.

An Oklahoma Watch evaluation of Stitt’s Twitter account since he acquired the vaccine shot exhibits that the governor’s posts about vaccination outreach or the state’s vaccination successes accounted for just one.53% of his tweets (3 out of 193), together with his tweet about getting the vaccine.

That stands in stark distinction to the extra proactive strategy being taken by governors — each Republicans and Democrats— of Oklahoma’s neighbors. 

Oklahoma Watch additionally reviewed the social posting of the Twitter accounts of the governors of the six surrounding states: Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico. The evaluation of posts since March 28 discovered: 

  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) tweeted about vaccination outreach and/or advantages in 43.32% of posts (133 of 307 tweets).
  • New Mexico Gov. Michell Lujan Grisham (D) tweeted about it 26% of the time (165 of 633 tweets).
  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) additionally tweeted about it 26% of the time (51 of 196 tweets).
  • Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) tweeted about it 17% of the time (228 of 1,341 tweets). 
  • Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) tweeted about it 13% of the time (54 of 407 tweets).
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted about it 3.6% time (20 out 555). 
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On Fb, the place the governor’s official web page has 111,260 followers, Stitt hasn’t posted about COVID-19 or the significance of vaccines for months. 

One of many few mentions of vaccines since March was when Stitt posted that, “taking the COVID-19 vaccine is a private alternative,” together with a submit celebrating his signing of a bill that prohibits public faculties and universities from requiring masks or proof of vaccination until the governor points a brand new emergency order — one thing Stitt says he doesn’t plan to do. 

As well as, of the final 45 press releases sent by the governor’s office, none had been particularly about vaccination efforts. 

This comes as Oklahoma now has one of many highest COVID-19 test positivity rates within the nation as circumstances have shortly climbed in latest days. Oklahoma well being leaders, in the meantime, say the worst may yet be to come since Oklahoma trails much of the country in getting residents vaccinated. 

As compared, Hutchinson has despatched dozens of press releases and Fb posts, along with greater than 100 tweets, stressing the significance of vaccines or offering data on how residents in Arkansas can get vaccinated in the course of the previous 4 weeks.

This consists of quite a few posts highlighting Hutchinson’s not too long ago introduced COVID-19 listening tour.

“It’s an opportunity for me to proceed to encourage individuals to get vaccinated,” he mentioned in an announcement. “That is the problem we face.”

On Thursday, Hutchinson reinstated Arkansas’ public well being emergency and known as for a particular session of the state legislature to contemplate amending a state regulation banning masks mandates, thereby permitting faculties to set their very own insurance policies.

Carly Atchison, a spokeswoman for Stitt, mentioned the governor’s workplace stands behind their vaccination outreach efforts thus far. She added that there aren’t any plans to strive new methods, similar to providing lottery-based incentives like many different states are doing or embarking on a listening tour much like what Hutchinson is doing. 

“Vaccines are free and accessible to anybody who needs one,” she added, saying “the Well being Division continues to share assets for vaccines and encourage those that can get a vaccine to get one.”

Atchison additionally pointed to new vaccine data that exhibits vaccination are on the uptick as circumstances and hospitalizations have began to ramp up. 

Minority Ground Chief Emily Virgin, D-Norman, nonetheless, mentioned this isn’t sufficient. 

Virgin gave credit score to Stitt for getting and publicizing the vaccine earlier this 12 months. She additionally famous that the well being division has been extra proactive in getting the message out.

However Virgin mentioned Stitt has appreciable sway amongst many Oklahomans and he’s uniquely positioned to assist persuade these on the fence that they need to get the vaccine. 

“The governor has the flexibility to be an important messenger presently,” she mentioned. “Irrespective of what number of instances I speak about it, a sure a part of the inhabitants might not hearken to me. However they may if now we have each side of the aisle speaking about it.”

Final week, the state’s largest paper, additionally urged Stitt to go on a “media blitz” to encourage vaccinations. 

“That is no time to take a seat again. This can be a time to guide,” wrote The Oklahoman Govt Editor Ray Rivera and Managing Editor Clytie Bunyan within the editorial. “The governor ought to put public well being over politics. He has nothing to lose and every little thing to achieve. A greater-vaccinated inhabitants results in fewer circumstances, fewer hospitalizations and a continued financial restoration.”

The pitch didn’t appear to work. 

Atchinson, in response, tweeted that The Oklahoman was simply making an attempt to assault Stitt for not mandating the vaccine, though the editorial didn’t name for such a transfer. 

“Somewhat than make the case themselves, (The Oklahoman) editors accuse (Stitt) of enjoying politics as a result of he received’t mandate the vaccine which is what they really need and went with the “silence is violence” argument,” she wrote. “The brand new wokelahoman!”

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, well being insurance policies and authorities accountability points. Name or textual content him at (630) 301-0589. Electronic mail him at [email protected]. Observe him on Twitter at @tbrownokc

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