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Local lawmakers get a shot in the arm

The polls that show so many Republicans around the country resisting COVID-19 vaccines is certainly discouraging for those of us who believe a healthy and fulsome vaccination regimen is crucial to getting the country back to normal.

I am happy to report that every single legislator in eastern Connecticut, Republicans and Democrats alike, responded in an informal survey I made this week that they have started or completed vaccination or are scheduling a shot.

They all spoke encouragingly about vaccination in their responses, a sign, I'd say, of healthy pandemic leadership.

Republican Greg Howard of Stonington disclosed he had to put off vaccination for a while because he had COVID-19.

"I was fortunate (young and healthy) so I fared pretty well," Howard said in emails explaining that he is awaiting a shot, now that 90 days have passed since he was sick.

I reached out to eastern Connecticut lawmakers after a story in the Providence Journal reported that only 3 of 14 Rhode Island Republican legislators responded to that newspaper's survey to say they had gotten or planned to get a shot.

In contrast, about half of 99 Democratic lawmakers responded, with all but two saying they had or planned to get shots.

Most shocking to me was the response in Rhode Island by Rep. Blake Filippi of Block Island, whose district also covers Charlestown and parts of South Kingstown and Westerly, telling the newspaper it was none of anyone's business.

"Respectfully, I won't respond to any query that seeks details on such personal and private medical decisions," he told the newspaper.

If Filippi is so adamant about the secrecy of his health, especially as it pertains to public health, he ought to give up elected office and live as privately as he likes.

If the lawmaker got a shot and won't admit it because of some perceived political bias against vaccination among his constituents, then shame on him.

If he didn't get a shot because of some medical complication, he could say that and surely no one would press him for details.

Filippi is the House minority leader, and failing to address the issue of vaccinations and how they can help us all is a decided failure of leadership.

I know people on Block Island who have had to devote a day to getting a shot, going off island by ferry and then traveling on the mainland to a place where they could get an appointment.

It's too bad that Block Islanders didn't enjoy the kind of accommodation residents of Fishers Island got. New York state leaders, recognizing the challenge of getting off Fishers Island and the risks of a pandemic where there isn't full emergency care, vaccinated every resident of the island on the island.

But then it seems clear Block Island's representative wasn't going to help them get better access to vaccines.

Connecticut lawmakers turn out to be enthusiastic vaccine promoters, based on the responses I got.

Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague told me she has worked to help the homebound and developmentally disabled get shots.

Sen. Heather Somers said through a spokesman that she has held virtual answer sessions about the vaccine to address concerns for those hesitant about receiving it. She is on the Covid Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Some, like Rep. Christine Conley, praised the science.

"I thank all of the scientists who made this possible, including those who work locally at Pfizer," she wrote.

Amen.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the first name of state Rep. Greg Howard, R-Stonington.

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