Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday morning that he’s moving people with intellectual or developmental disabilities into the 1B Phase of vaccination distribution, along with essential government workers including legislature and judicial personnel. Others in the 1B Phase expansion include grocery store and meal delivery workers, postal or package delivery service workers, public transit workers, manufacturers, and houses of worship.
“It’s important to get this information out to the public and also to our providers so they can make the appropriate adjustments for this week in terms of their schedule for vaccinations,” Hutchinson said,
This means 180,000 Arkansans will be eligible to receive the vaccine, along with groups in the 1-A Phase, including health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and these high priority groups: EMS, fire, and law enforcement who serve as first responders, primary care, urgent care, college/university student health center, K-12 health clinics and school nurses, dental clinics, pharmacies, home health, private care/personal care, hospice care, dialysis centers, correctional staff involved in patient care and transfer, morticians/funeral home staff involved in direct contact or conducting transports and blood donation centers.
“Over the weekend we had some great mass clinics, and we noticed we did not have the demand that we anticipated, which indicates either the people are getting the vaccinations in different places; we’re getting more of them covered, but it also could simply indicate that there’s some resistance to the vaccines,” Hutchinson said.
Demand has varied from place to place across the state. The mass vaccination clinic in Jonesboro this past Saturday had 3,000 slots available. They administered, according to Hutchinson, a little bit less than 2,000 doses.
For Arkansans who placed their names on multiple waiting lists for the vaccine, and have received their first shot, the governor urged them to rapidly remove their names from those other lists. Providers are contacting people on their waiting lists and discovering the individuals have already received their first vaccination dose from another provider.
Hutchinson also announced a statewide, toll-free number Arkansans can call to schedule their vaccinations through the Arkansas Department of Health. For people who want to get a vaccination from a local provider, the toll-free number can also help guide them to one. The toll-free number is: 1-800-985-6030, from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The toll-free number will be answered by a team of 20-30 operators.
The state received 24,400 one-shot doses of the Johnson and Johnson brand vaccine. These vaccines are targeted for food processing manufacturers.
“We hope everyone will simply call for their vaccination. We treat all these vaccines alike in terms of their efficacy and we urge everyone to take what is available,” Hutchinson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations Monday that included not having to be quarantined if you have been vaccinated and exposed to someone who has COVID -19.
“We have to keep the demand for the vaccines up, we have to keep the lines full, because people want access to those vaccines. We want to make sure we make sure we get them out as fast as we can within 72 hours into the arms of Arkansans,” Hutchinson said.
Col. Robert Ator, the retired Arkansas National Guard colonel appointed by Hutchinson to oversee vaccine distribution, said only 234 doses of vaccine have been lost in the entire history of the vaccination distribution program and most of those were at long-term care facilities.
In Independence County as of Monday afternoon, the Arkansas Department of Health reported there were only ten active confirmed cases of COVID-19. Since the pandemic began nearly a year ago the county has seen 2,439 confirmed cases, and 1,240 probable cases. There has been 85 confirmed deaths due to the virus.