JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri public health officials recently announced that new vaccines would soon be available statewide, but their initial message raised some eyebrows.

The new vaccines are meant to combat a COVID-19 omicron subvariant (EG.5) rising in the St. Louis area and nationwide.

A tweet Wednesday from the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services reads: “COVID vaccines will be available in Missouri soon, if you’re in to that sort of thing. If not, just keep scrolling!”

The tweet has more than 115,000 views and dozens of responses. Some consider it passive-aggressive toward those against vaccines. Others suggest the “Just keep scrolling” remark takes away from the department’s goal of encouraging people to get vaccines.

Vaccines continue to be a controversial decision for some, even as the US phased out of a “pandemic” stage earlier this year. The University of Oxford estimates that around 61 million people nationwide have not been vaccinated at least once against COVID-19, nearly three years since they first became available.

Further to that point, some US Republican officials, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been critical of recent COVID-19 vaccine developments.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also weighed in on the state’s COVID-19 response Thursday via Facebook:

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we never forced businesses or churches to close and never enacted mask mandates or vaccine requirements. As long as I’m Governor, that will NOT change. To protect lives and livelihoods, our economy must remain open, and we’ve learned that one of the safest places for children is in school receiving an education.

Missourians can rest assured that our Administration will always stand for freedom, especially against an overreaching federal government trying to force shutdowns. Personal responsibility is how we beat the COVID-19 crisis, and personal responsibility is how we will continue to protect Missourians. The COVID-19 crisis has long been over in the State of Missouri, and we aren’t turning back.

After the initial tweet, Missouri DHSS sent two follow-up replies in the thread with more direct intentions of recommending the vaccine. The first reply reads: “Real talk: we encourage you to visit with your doctor to talk through your personal risk and prevention tips for respiratory viruses like SARS-CoV-2, Influenza and RSV.” The second one includes a link to a Facebook discussion on vaccines.

Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states getting a vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19 and new variants, and considers the vaccine “a safer, more reliable way to build protection than getting sick with COVID-19.”