AUGUSTA, Maine — An Androscoggin County state representative who has been publicly skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccination said Monday his 12-day hospitalization with the virus has not swayed his views on getting vaccinated.
Rep. Randall Greenwood, R-Wales, said he was on a ventilator during his stay at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston after experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms. He was released last Wednesday and is recovering at home.
Greenwood, a second-term lawmaker who was previously a Wales selectman and Androscoggin County commissioner, has been publicly doubtful of the benefits of getting vaccinated and has spoken against masking and COVID-19 shot requirements on social media. He signed petitions against masking requirements in the Wales-area school district and shared a presentation of an Idaho doctor who has been criticized for spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.
He is one of the now several Maine lawmakers who have been public about contracting the virus. But Greenwood said he is still against requirements to get the shot and was not interested in getting vaccinated himself, saying it was his personal choice. He pointed specifically to the existence of breakthrough cases — a situation in which fully vaccinated people contract the virus. Those cases have increased as more people become vaccinated, but those who aren’t vaccinated are substantially more likely to contract COVID-19.
About one of every 200 Mainers who were not fully vaccinated tested positive with the virus last week, compared with one of every 860 residents who are fully vaccinated. That means that those who were not fully inoculated were about 4.4 times more likely to catch COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated, according to state data.
“I still think there are potential bad side effects of the vaccination,” he said. “The more research I do, the more I’m not sure vaccination is the right choice.”
Greenwood did not downplay the severity of his illness, describing it as a “rough bout” that made him worry for his three children. He said he became concerned after experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms, which he said he gets every one to two years, for days before he went to the St. Mary’s emergency room. Although his stance on vaccinations has not changed, he said he is taking the virus more seriously after his illness.
The three vaccines approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been proven highly effective at providing complete protection from the virus or preventing more serious cases. The efficacy has been shown to wane over time, and people with underlying health conditions can be more at risk even fully vaccinated. A booster shot for all three types of the vaccine has been authorized to maintain resistance.
Some of the state’s most high-profile lawmakers have contracted the virus after getting vaccinated, including Maine’s independent U.S. Sen Angus King, Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash and Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic.
Those figures have all credited the vaccine with protecting them from more severe illness.
Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, was one of the first lawmakers to announce he had gotten COVID-19. He tested positive in late November 2020, before vaccines were available.
The best known case of a state legislator contracting the virus may be Rep. Chris Johansen, R-Monticello, who attended an anti-vaccination requirement rally in August after reportedly getting sick and losing his wife to the virus the previous month.