JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – With the days now ticking away on his tenure as interim director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Robert Knodell is not mincing words when it comes to the COVID vaccine.

Knodell went on his personal Twitter account to not only implore people to get vaccinated but also to call out vaccine conspiracy theorists and people sowing discord and doubt.

“All this rhetoric against COVID vaccines is a bunch of baloney,” he said.

As of Thursday, only 40.5% of Missourians are fully vaccinated. Medical experts say at least 70% to 80% of people need immunity to minimize spread within a general population. The safest way to be immunized is through vaccination.

Missouri has seen a resurgence in COVID cases and hospitalizations in the past month due to the emergent Delta variant and the reluctance of many to get vaccinated.

“If you don’t want to protect yourself, do it to protect your family, neighbors, or strangers who may have vulnerabilities putting them at grave risk you may not even know about,” Knodell said.

Knodell, who served as Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s deputy chief of staff, was tapped to lead the health department after Dr. Randall Williams resigned in April. On Wednesday, Governor Parson named Donald Kauerauf to the position full-time. Kauerauf will take over DHSS beginning Sept. 1.

Also Wednesday, the governor and Knodell announced the Missouri Vaccine Incentive Program (VIP) to get people to roll up their sleeves and get the vaccine. Under the program, 900 Missourians who have or will choose to be vaccinated will win cash or education savings account prizes in the amount of $10,000 over the next three months.

Less than 24 hours later, the state health department said more than 100,000 had registered with the incentive program.