With around 10% of Arkansans being fully vaccinated and a push by the Biden administration to open vaccine access, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (March 16) expanded eligibility an estimated 1.2 million Arkansans in the 1c category.
There are an estimated 2.131 million Arkansans now eligible – total in categories 1a-c – to receive the vaccine, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). The state’s population is about 3.018 million according to the latest estimate from the U.S. Census.
“It is important to move to 1c so we can open up more and keep the demand coming for the vaccine to make sure there is not any gap and to give everyone the best opportunity to get the vaccine that wants one and who needs it,” Gov. Hutchinson said Tuesday during his weekly COVID-19 press briefing.
Eligibility in 1c includes Arkansans aged 16 to 64 with health conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19, essential workers in energy, finance, foodservice, information technology and communications, legal, media, public health/human services, public safety, shelter and housing, and transportation and logistics. The category also includes those living in high-risk settings such as those who are incarcerated or detained, those living in group homes, congregate settings, or crowded housing; and student housing such as dorms and Greek housing.
He also said 1c is being opened because of a lower acceptance rate for the vaccine in rural parts of the state, with state officials working on education efforts in those areas. The governor said he believes many are not rejecting the vaccine, but waiting for more assurance of vaccine safety and will eventually get vaccinated.
“We have to increase that (acceptance rate) at the same time we are increasing the opportunity for those all across the state to get vaccinated as well,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
As of March 16, Arkansas has received 1,325,200 vaccines since Dec. 14, including 80,980 received in the previous 24 hours. Vaccines administered in the previous 24 hours rose by 12,425 to 781,348, or 59% of vaccines received in this program.
The federal program in which CVS, Walgreens and Walmart are managing vaccinations in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities has received 174,380 vaccines since Dec. 28, including 9,360 in the previous 24 hours. Vaccines administered in the past 24 hours rose by 2,472 to 82,532, or 47.3% of vaccines received.
Combined, the state has received 1,499,580 vaccines and administered 863,880. The ADH reports that 303,823 Arkansans have been fully vaccinated.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero again cautioned Arkansans to follow health safety guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing – even if vaccinated – to avoid another surge. He also urged Arkansans to get vaccinated as soon as they can, and said all three vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson – are good.
“So please, we need you to accept the vaccine. As you can see from the governor’s report, right now about 55% of our 65 and older (population) have received one dose. That is not enough to have herd immunity. We need to have somewhere around 70 to 90% of our population immunized,” Romero said.
The ADH vaccine appointment line is (800) 985-6030.
Also on Tuesday, Lorrie Trogdon, president and CEO of the Arkansas Bankers Association, announced “Operation Vaxspeed,” a collaboration between banks and the Arkansas Pharmacists Association to provide space for vaccine clinics. She said banks are opening available space for vaccine clinics and said Arkansans may check with local pharmacies for info on the clinics.
COVID REPORT – March 16
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• Total confirmed and probable cases: 327,456, up 396
• Total confirmed and probable active cases: 2,875, up 12
• Total confirmed and probable deaths: 5,493, up 12
• There were 2,614 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 1,618 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.
257, up 7
The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (54), Benton (49), Washington (35), Faulkner (22), and Baxter (15). The counties accounted for 44.2% of the 396 new confirmed and probable cases.
As of Tuesday at 2 p.m., there were 29,523,766 U.S. cases and 536,406 deaths. Globally, there were 120,505,974 cases and 2,665,597 deaths.