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"This should not be political" | State republican leaders sign letter urging people to get COVID-19 vaccine

Becky Massey and Richard Briggs, representatives from Knox County, both signed the letter.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican members of the Tennessee Senate signed a letter Tuesday that urged people across the state to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The letter reminds people that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over with the first sentence, before describing a recent spike in coronavirus cases. Those new cases are partially caused by the COVID-19 delta variant, according to officials.

Most of the people diagnosed with COVID-19 were not vaccinated against it, they said. Almost everyone who has been hospitalized with the coronavirus was also not been vaccinated, according to the letter.

"As people across our state are exposed to the spread of this deadly virus, we strongly urge Tennesseans who do not have a religious objection or a legitimate medical issue to get vaccinated," the letter says.

They said that if vaccines had been available from the start of the pandemic and were widely used, then more than 600,000 Americans could still be alive now.

Nearly 338 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S., officials said. Out of the millions of doses, few have had adverse effects, according to officials.

"Vaccines have been saving lives for over a century," the letter says. "As a result, polio and smallpox have been eradicated and measles, mumps and rubella are rare. Building on these 20th-century medical breakthroughs, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed utilizing high standards and the best medical technology available."

However, the letter also emphasizes that Tennessee would not require vaccines. The General Assembly also passed legislation prohibiting local governments from requiring vaccine passports.

"Every life lost to this virus is tragic," the letter says. "The COVID-19 vaccines save lives. Again, we strongly urge all Tennesseans to study the facts, talk to their doctor and get vaccinated."

Richard Briggs and Beck Massey, both senators from Knox County, signed the letter. A total of 16 state leaders signed it.