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Hall of Famer Cliff Harris to encourage vaccinations

by Brandon Smith | October 10, 2021 at 4:04 a.m.
Cliff Harris, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class, reacts during the induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, Pool)

Pro Football Hall of Famer, former Dallas Cowboy and Arkansas native Cliff Harris will be in Hot Springs Tuesday to help promote and encourage vaccination against COVID-19.

Healthy Connections Community Health Network and Ambetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness are hosting the former football legend for the free vaccine event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Healthy Connections clinic location at 3604 Central Ave., Suite D.

Harris will visit from 3 to 4 p.m. to meet and greet community members who come by to receive their free COVID-19 vaccine.

"It was important to me to get vaccinated to keep my friends and family safe," said Harris, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year. "I hope others will join me in getting vaccinated for the people that count on them, and I look forward to meeting members of the community at Healthy Connections."

Jeffrey Slatton, business communications and marketing specialist for Healthy Connections, said he is really excited about the event and hopes it will help encourage many others to get vaccinated.

"First, we're really excited to be able to hold an event where we can enable people to get vaccinated because, you know, we feel that's so important," he said.

"But to be able to get somebody like Cliff Harris who's a Dallas Cowboys' legend and NFL Hall of Famer, and who's from the area, it's really exciting, you know. And, in addition, get him to talk about being vaccinated and why it's important just adds to the whole thing. So it's really an exciting event for us. We're really excited to have him and we hope we have a big turnout."

The COVID-19 vaccine, either the first or second dose, as well as the flu vaccine, will be available at no charge to patients. Walk-ins will be accepted, or patients can register for a specific appointment time by calling 888-710-8220. Slatton said the event also provides the perfect opportunity to receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine in one sitting.

"Anything that encourages people to take the step, I think, is important," he said. "And the more people, I think, that come forward and say that they have done it and it's gone well for them, you know, I think that just bodes well for the entire vaccination program."

While the event marks the first for Healthy Connections Community Health Network, Ambetter for Arkansas Health and Wellness recently hosted former Dallas Cowboy and fellow Hall of Famer Drew Pearson for such events in other parts of the state -- and to great success, Slatton said.

"Vaccination is the free, easy, and safe way to protect yourself and those closest to you from COVID-19, which is why we've worked so hard to vaccinate our community," Tony Calandro, CEO at Healthy Connections, said. "We're pleased to have Cliff Harris to promote awareness of the vaccine and the protection it offers all of us."

Ambetter from Arkansas Health & Wellness President and CEO John Ryan said vaccination is the key to stopping the pandemic.

"The best action we can take to keep our communities safe from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated," he said. "Providing access to vaccines is a top priority of ours, and we're grateful to have Cliff Harris with us to support these efforts and ensure a healthier community."

While presigned items by Harris will be available at Tuesday's event, due to NFL Hall of Fame restrictions, Harris will not be able to sign any items brought to the event.

Slatton said people may come at any time during the day and there will be extra staff available from 3 to 4 p.m. when Harris is there.

Harris was born in Fayetteville and played at Hot Springs and Des Arc high schools. He played at Ouachita Baptist University before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys and was nicknamed "Captain Crash" by his teammates for his punishing hits and reckless pursuit of ball carriers. The Cowboys ranked in the top 10 in defense every year with him in the lineup. Harris played in five Super Bowls, six Pro Bowls, and was named All-Pro four times.

Harris retired in 1980 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, but had his enshrinement postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. He's also a member of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Healthy Connections is a Mena-based Community Health Network with locations throughout southwest and central Arkansas.

Healthy Connections clinics are offering Monoclonal Antibody Treatment at all locations. Clinics are also offering regular COVID-19 testing for free, with results in two to five days, rapid COVID-19 testing for $60, with results in 15 minutes, and COVID-19 vaccines for free. Visit http://www.gettestedfree.com for more information.

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