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North Dakota looking for vaccine skeptics-turned disciples

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FILE – In this Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 file photo, Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, testifies on a House bill in Bismarck, N.D. Kempenich was among the thousands of North Dakotans who never took the coronavirus seriously and was unwilling to get the vaccine. But the longtime Republican lawmaker and rancher from the state’s southwest corner became a believer after nearly dying from the virus this spring. ( Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Rep. Keith Kempenich was among the thousands of North Dakotans who never took the coronavirus seriously, eschewing face coverings and blowing off the vaccine as an unnecessary hassle.

But the longtime Republican lawmaker and rancher from the state’s highly conservative southwest corner now is now a believer after the virus nearly killed him in the waning days of the legislative session this spring.

The North Dakota Health Department is looking for testimonials from former virus skeptics like Kempenich as part of a planned public education campaign aimed at boosting the state’s dismal vaccination rate.

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