KULR8: Senator Tester, “this vaccine is safe and it’s necessary.”

by Bradley Warren

The senior senator from the treasure state, Senator Jon Tester is now the Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and sits on several subcommittees. The senator says he might be one voice but his voice will be loud for rural America.

On the topic of the American Rescue Plan, Senator Tester says he fought for big bucks to come into Montana.

“Here’s the deal, the state of Montana is going to get $1.385 billion,” Tester said.

That’s a flexible dollar amount meaning it can be spent in many different, it can be used for the police force, infrastructure, and to support small businesses.

“There’s direct funding, $207 million for counties based on a formula from treasury,” Tester said.

That formula is based on the previous census, the three largest cities in the state, Great Falls, Billings and, Missoula, will be getting $51 million, and then an additional $82 million will go to other cities and towns.

As for more vaccinations coming into the state, the senator says he’s very pleased with the way things are progressing.

Pointing out that it is his belief the only way the world will return to normal is through vaccination.

“I’m very pleased that more people have access to it and I think we need to continue to ramp up availability to vaccines across Montana,” Tester said, “If we’re going to get the economy back on track, that is just a foundational issue, I think the work that the Governor has done is commendable, but I think we need to continue to work to get everybody vaccinated.”

Senator Tester says he understands there is a vaccine hesitancy and he says he’s leading by example.

“I’ve had the Pfizer vaccine both shots, I had a sore arm for the first day after the first shot and I had a sore arm for a half a day after the second shot,” Tester said, “the side effects are slim to none and I just think people out there need to get out and get vaccinated.”

The senator is concerned that if not enough people choose to get vaccinated we could go in reverse.

“We’re seeing vaccine hesitancy especially in rural areas,” Tester said, “this vaccine is safe and it’s necessary, we’ve seen the variant of this COVID-19 happen in England, South Africa, Brazil, and other parts of the world and so far we have been lucky. Our vaccines are very efficient against the variant if people don’t get vaccinated the potential for more variants continues to grow and at some point in time these vaccines won’t be responding to the new variant and then we have a possibility of falling back into where we were.”

The senator says he was involved in conversations with the president and converses daily with White House officials regarding vaccine distribution.

“Montana has done a great job of getting vaccines into people’s arm,” Tester said, “we need more vaccines, we need them now, and we’ve been pushing them very hard to get more vaccines, and I think it’s resulted in some positive things.”

The Senator’s office sent out a press release earlier this week pointing out elevated vaccination numbers coming into the state.

The first dose allocation of COVID vaccines is set to increase by 2,370 doses next week, the state will get an additional 1,170 Pfizer first doses for a total of 15,210 and another 1,200 Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as 10,400 Moderna first doses, bringing the total to 26,810 first doses, up from 24,440 last week.

But as vaccines are coming in the senator says his concerns are for those who are most vulnerable.

“You’ve got veterans out there particularly the Vietnam veterans are getting a little older and most of them have more than one thing wrong with them and getting this vaccine into their arm would be really really important,” Tester said, “and I would say Indian country is the same the native Americans have been hit hard by this pandemic and lost a lot of lives in Indian Country and making sure the IHS, Indian health services, has access to these vaccines is really important.”

As Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the senator is not only concerned with getting vaccines to veterans but getting them to rural veterans.

A pilot program has been used in the state of Montana to get vaccines to veterans via airplane. The senator saying that this has been successful and it something will start to see more of down the road.

“If folks cannot make it to where the vaccines are then we need to get the vaccines to them,” Tester said.

The senator pointing to this program and that the VA has been delivering those vaccines successfully.

As more and more people start to get vaccinated and things start to reopen one big topic of conversation is the Amtrak system that members of the community are wanting to connect the state.

The senator says the funding for Empire Build has been restored to its pre-COVID funding level, as for the Hiawatha Link the senator says it’s important to see it completed but he wants to make sure Washington keeps both routes running.

“If people keep fighting for the southern route in Montana we will keep pushing to make sure it happens, we need to make sure we’re pushing for both routes, Montana is a big state, we need both routes running,” Tester said, “I think you’re going to see Amtrak grow and it will become how much more preferred mode of transportation than what it is today.”