NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A conservative talk radio host from Tennessee who had been a vaccine skeptic until he was hospitalized from COVID-19 now says his listeners should get vaccinated.
Phil Valentine's brother, Mark Valentine, spoke at length on WWTN-FM in Nashville on Thursday about his brother's condition, saying he is in a critical care unit on supplemental oxygen, but not on a ventilator. Phil Valentine has had an afternoon talk radio show on the station for years.
"First of all, he's regretful that he wasn't a more vocal advocate of the vaccination," Mark Valentine said of his brother. "For those listening, I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, `Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories.'"
Mark Valentine took exception to the idea that Phil Valentine was anti-vaccination, labeling him "pro-information" and "pro-choice" on the vaccine but adding, "he got this one wrong."
After Phil Valentine tested positive for COVID-19 but prior to his hospitalization, he told his listeners to consider, "If I get this COVID thing, do I have a chance of dying from it?" If so, he advised them to get vaccinated. He said he made the decision not to get vaccinated because he thought he probably wouldn't die.
Phil Valentine also said that he was "taking vitamin D like crazy" and had found a doctor who agreed to prescribe ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasites in animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against taking ivermectin for COVID-19, advising that it is not an anti-viral drug and can be dangerous.
Mark Valentine said he got vaccinated against COVID-19 after his brother became ill. Realizing that he has a family he is responsible for, he said not getting vaccinated "is just a selfish position to have, and, absent any concrete evidence to the contrary in terms of side effects and negative effects of the vaccine, I have a duty to do that."
Mark Valentine's comments came the same day Tennessee's Republican Gov. Bill Lee defended his administration's firing of the state's vaccination chief and rollback of outreach for childhood vaccines, both of which sparked national scrutiny over Tennessee's inoculation efforts against COVID-19.
Former state vaccine chief Michelle Fiscus has repeatedly said she was terminated to appease some GOP lawmakers who were outraged over state outreach for COVID-19 vaccinations to minors. Some lawmakers even threatened to dissolve the Health Department over the marketing.
Tennessee continues to have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country even as cases are rising. As of Thursday, 12,666 people in Tennessee had died from COVID-19.