Washington — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Sunday he believes final, non-emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of coronavirus vaccines would help combat hesitancy among Arkansas residents to get their shots.
"Whenever they see emergency use authorization, then they say, well, they haven't made a final approval, they haven't got all the research completed that is needed on there. They want to do more study. And so it was approved as emergency use," Hutchinson, a Republican, said in an interview on "Face the Nation." "And so for that reason, you can't mandate it. We don't mandate it in Arkansas. We have to rely upon the education."
All three coronavirus vaccines being administered in the U.S., from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, received emergency use authorizations from the FDA, though the agency notes this is not approval. All three have been shown in clinical trials to be highly effective at safely preventing infection and serious illness from the coronavirus.
Nearly 42% of people in Arkansas have received at least one dose of their coronavirus vaccines, though cases and hospitalizations are rising, according to data from the state. Hutchinson said those being admitted to the hospital have not been fully vaccinated against the virus, and said demand for the shots decreased as cases declined.
"What you have is that people started feeling comfortable," he said. "People saw the cases of hospitalizations down. And so, the urgency of getting the vaccine slowed down."
But he predicted that as hospitalizations and the number of new infections rise, vaccination rates will increase, too.
"There is vaccine hesitancy," Hutchinson said. "Part of it is we'll just delay it, but the part that you're most concerned about are those that don't believe in the efficacy of it. They believe that, in the conspiracy theories."
Hutchinson said one of the challenges facing the state is concern about the vaccines being authorized for emergency use by the FDA, but said thefrom federal health agencies in administering Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in mid-April also contributed to vaccine hesitancy. That pause, which came after several women reported a rare blood-clotting disorder after receiving the single-dose shot, was .
"Those factors together, I think increased the hesitancy," the governor said.
Even with the number of new coronavirus infections rising, Hutchinson said he doesn't believe mask mandates will be reimposed. Still, he said the Delta variant is impacting the state's caseload and hospitalizations.
"People know what to do. They're instructed in it," he said. "And we have to count upon their individual responsibility to do the right thing. We're hoping that we'll get there."