LITTLE ROCK — State officials say the COVID-19 vaccine rollout should begin to include more people not already considered in the first tier of people set to begin getting shots next week.
The group of people in what is called the Phase 1-A group of people who were prioritized as first in line for the vaccine included frontline healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff, and first responders.
At a press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that as of Tuesday the state had received 227,500 doses of the vaccine and 89,449 had been administered. That was an increase of 8,653 shots given over the previous 24 hours.
Hutchinson had said earlier this month that the state planned to finish vaccinating everyone in Phase 1-A by the end of January.
However, after consulting with hospitals, the Department of Health, the COVID-19 Winter Task Force and other stakeholders in the effort, they found the schedule could be modified.
“And we are ready to move into two categories of 1-B,” the governor said.
Those categories include people ages 70 and over, as well as K-12 and higher education staff and teachers and daycare workers.
Hutchinson said the plan is to begin vaccinating those individuals beginning Monday, Jan. 18.
For Arkansans over the age of 70, vaccinations will be available through many community pharmacies located in each county in the state. You can visit healthy.arkansas.gov for a map of participating pharmacies. Call ahead and make an appointment. Vaccine clinics and events may be available in your area through hospitals and healthcare providers, Hutchinson said.
For schools and daycares, districts should determine how many doses are needed, then reach out to the local health unit or pharmacy in your county to schedule a vaccination clinic, the governor said.
He went on to say that there are about 132,000 education workers in the state and 311,000 people 70 or older. That could be a heavy lift to add 433,000 potential Arkansans eligible for the vaccination, so prioritization will be necessary.
Hutchinson said he had spoken with hospitals, especially the larger ones, and they say they have vaccinated most of their workers who wanted to take the shot. They have doses available and are ready to move on.
He was asked if that meant if a healthcare worker was offered the vaccine and declined it that the hospital could offer it to someone else.
“That’s exactly right,” Hutchinson said. “They had an opportunity for priority, which was important. Some chose not to take that priority, so we’re going to move to other priorities.”