AP: Lee won’t incentivize COVID-19 shots, but farmers get state money for cattle vaccines

Gov. Bill Lee, left, is awarded a plaque at a Tennessee Cattlemens Association meeting in Gatlinburg on July 30, 2021. (Image credit: Gov. Bill Lee’s office)

Gov. Bill Lee has refused to offer incentives for Tennesseans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but the Republican’s administration has paid nearly a half-million dollars to farmers to encourage them to inoculate their cattle, according to a report by Travis Loller of the Associated Press.

Tennessee’s Herd Health Program was launched in 2019 under Lee, whose family cattle business, the Triple L Ranch, featured prominently in his campaign and in social media posts since coming into office. The program reimburses participating farmers up to $1,500 for vaccinating their herds. The state has distributed $492,561 since 2019, the AP reports.

Lee spoke of his opposition to incentivizing people to get COVID-19 shots at the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association annual conference on Friday.

“I don’t think that’s the role of government,” Lee told the group. “The role of government is to make it available and then to encourage folks to get a vaccine.”

Lee’s office downplayed the apparent contrast between the governor’s stances on human and bovine vaccinations.

“Tennesseans have every incentive to get the COVID-19 vaccine – it’s free and available in every corner of the state with virtually no wait,” Lee spokeswoman Casey Black told the AP in a statement. “While a veterinarian can weigh in on safely raising cattle for consumption, the state will continue to provide human Tennesseans with COVID-19 vaccine information and access.”

Black did not respond to questions about whether the Lee family farm received money under the state program. Records from the state Agriculture Department don’t show anyone named Lee as a recipient.

Read Loller’s whole story here.


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