Gov. Hutchinson rules out vaccine mandates for school children; new COVID cases projected to decline

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 630 views 

Arkansas will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for school children when a vaccine becomes available for those under the age of 12, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday (Sept. 21). The governor said state law bans a public mandate vaccine for any purpose and demographic.

It’s possible the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could approve an emergency authorization to Pfizer for vaccines among those between the ages of 5 and 11 by Halloween. Pfizer has provided vaccine trial data to the FDA for proposed vaccine, which would be 10 micrograms compared with the 30 microgram dose used for those 12 and older. The Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11 would also be a two-dose regimen.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA and a board member at Pfizer, recently said during a CNBC Squawk Box interview that Pfizer could submit to the FDA “very quickly.”

“The data came a little earlier than some were expecting, and depending on how long the FDA takes to review the application, whether it’s a four-week review or a six-week review, you could have a vaccine available to children as early as probably by the end of October, perhaps it slips a little bit into November,” he said.

Gov. Hutchinson quickly shot down the idea of a vaccine mandate for public school children if the new vaccine is approved.

“The answer is ‘No.’ I mean, we don’t have a mandate for those 12 and above. … For the foreseeable future, and under the law of Arkansas, there is not any mandate and will not be any mandate for those age groups,” the governor said.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported that 5.13% of Arkansans 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and 11.8% are partially vaccinated. The ADH data shows 1.312 million Arkansans as fully vaccinated. There were 4,828 Arkansans reported as fully immunized in the previous 24 hours, a number somewhat lower than recent trends. When asked about the recent declines in the daily number of new vaccinations, Gov. Hutchinson said it’s important that people understand the vaccine is the best way to stop the virus.

“We had some very very high days that we were thrilled with. Now it seems to be settling around 7,000 (daily vaccinations). Some days down, some days up. Concern is not the right word, but I hope that we can keep the focus on the vaccines. … The best assurance that we can keep it down would be increasing that vaccine rate even to a higher extent that prepares us for the winter,” he said.

The ADH reported Tuesday 1,401 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 486,853. Active cases fell by 779 to 14,225, and reported deaths rose by 17 to 7,499. Hospitalizations declined by 34 to 993, and COVID patients on ventilators fell by 11 to 278.

Also on Tuesday, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) updated its COVID modeling. Following are key points in the new modeling. The forecasts were developed using ADH data through Sept. 12.
• The COVID positivity rate in the state remains above 10%, only slightly above the U.S. average. This is largely due to increasing numbers of COVID infections nationally rather than a dramatic decrease in cases in the state.
• The models are forecasting new daily COVID-19 cases in the state to decrease from 2,013 cases on Sept. 13 to 1,300 on Oct. 12.
• The 30-day models continue to show Arkansans between ages 35 and 59 will have the highest number of COVID-19 diagnoses — forecast to increase by 13,000 cases by Oct. 12.
• The highest relative growth in COVID-19 cases will be in children 17 and younger — forecast to increase by 14% by Oct. 12.
• Like cases, the 30-day model forecasts a decline in new hospitalizations in the next 15 days, dropping from 70 to 40 new daily admissions. The greatest relative increase in hospitalizations will be in young adults, 18 to 34, increasing by 24% by the end of September.
• The 30-day model is forecasting daily deaths will stabilize at around 30 deaths per day for the next two weeks. The 15- and 30-day models are forecasting 7,348 cumulative COVID-19 deaths by Sept. 27 and 8,347 by Oct. 12.
• All counties in Arkansas continue to have slow rates of vaccination. Most counties increased vaccinations by 4% to 6% in the past month.

Link here for the complete UAMS report.