U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R.Va.

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., who represents Virginia's 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, is pictured in this Daily Telegraph file photograph.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., says he is concerned about President Joe Biden’s plan to send government workers door-to-door to speak with Americans who have not yet taken the COVID-19 vaccine.

Griffith, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, also says he would oppose any effort by the Biden administration to mandate the vaccine.

“On July 9, 2021, I joined some of my House colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden expressing concerns about his plans to send government workers door-to-door in an attempt to speak with Americans not yet vaccinated against COVID-19,” Griffith said in his weekly report. “I do not approve of government policy that involves invading Americans’ personal information. Their vaccination status is none of the government’s business. This is a personal medical decision. Nor should the government mandate individuals to take the vaccine.”

Griffith, who caught COVID-19 last year and is now fully vaccinated, is still encouraging residents of Southwest Virginia to take the vaccine.

“That said, I believe in the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA, and I am fully vaccinated,” Griffith added in his weekly column. “It’s important to me that Southwest Virginians have answers to the questions that may be causing them uncertainty regarding the vaccine.”

Griffith, a member of the House Oversight and Investigations (O&I) Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, said the committee recently held a hearing to investigate vaccine hesitancy and how to build up better confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, which included testimony from Dr. Karen Shelton, who was the health director of the Mount Rogers Health District and interim director of both the Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau health districts.

Griffith said the vaccines utilizing messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology hold great promise for the future.

“Rather than exposing the body to a weakened form of coronavirus, mRNA vaccines teach cells to respond in a protective manner if they encounter the virus,” Griffith said. “Scholars have been researching and experimenting with mRNA vaccines for decades. I initially learned about mRNA technology in the context of combatting influenza. Over the last decade, I have asked Dr. Anthony Fauci numerous times about several new vaccine technologies under evaluation, including mRNA.”

Griffith said his interest in the mRNA technology was piqued because of the potential to produce vaccines without eggs.

“Traditional influenza vaccines are made using eggs,” Griffith said. “Vaccine manufacturers use eggs and influenza virus strains in a process that takes weeks. The simplicity and affordability of this process has caused it to be used for more than 70 years. But those with allergies to eggs often cannot receive such vaccines.”

Griffith said mRNA technology works without eggs and allows vaccines to be manufactured in half the time.

“This technology was being developed for traditional flu viruses,” he said. “As research continues, it is believed this technology will be used to provide a flu vaccine that is effective between 50 and 80 percent of the time. This is a major improvement. Over the last 10 years, traditional flu vaccines have roughly been effective between 14 and 40 percent of the time. I look forward to a time when flu vaccines for Americans — which are currently developed based on hypotheses after looking at the flu strains Australia experiences each year — can be tailored to specific strains after flu season begins. mRNA technology should allow for that. It could also allow for boosters to be offered during particularly virulent flu seasons.”

Due to the already established foundation of mRNA research, Griffith said COVID-19 vaccine developers were able to finalize a product quickly and efficiently.

“These many years of research are why I am comfortable with the safety and security of COVID-19 vaccines,” Griffith added. “However, the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine is not simple for everyone, nor should it be. I know of several medical considerations that require particularly careful vaccine evaluation, including pregnancy, certain kidney conditions, and pharmaceutical interactions. Folks should consult with their health care provider on whether to get a vaccine, and which is best for their situation. What’s right for me might not be right for you. I chose one of the mRNA vaccines, but Johnson & Johnson does not use mRNA and data indicates its vaccine is also safe.”

Griffith said if you get the virus, including the new Delta strain, vaccines dramatically reduce the likelihood of hospitalization or death.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens

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