Arkansas to activate Phase 1-B of COVID-19 vaccination plan Monday, providers hopeful to increase distribution

‘Certainly phase 1-B will help us get more shots into more people quickly and efficiently’
Published: Jan. 17, 2021 at 8:00 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2021 at 9:40 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Arkansas will move into its next round of its vaccination plan Monday as a part of Phase 1-B, which will expand vaccine accessibility to a new list of people.

As part of the next phase, Arkansans 70 or older and education workers, child care and higher education workers will now be eligible to receive a vaccine. The state announced additional groups will be eligible in 1-B as supply increases.

“We want to continue to increase as fast as we can getting these doses to Arkansans and at the same time being able to manage the limited supply that we are given,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news conference on Tuesday.

The next round of vaccinations follows recent data by the CDC that ranked the state’s distribution rate among some of the lowest in the country.

“It was disappointing to see the numbers,” said Josh Bright, North Arkansas Regional Medical Center Vice President of Operations.

Bright said there is an explanation for the low rates reported by the CDC.

”It’s a lag in data, lag in the reporting system which is actively being addressed,” he said. “I think you’ll see the true numbers come out relatively soon.”

In fact, in the last few days, distribution numbers have improved. Data updated by the CDC on Friday listed the distribution rate in Arkansas of people to at least have received one vaccination as 3.2%. This was up from under 2% just days before, putting the state close to the bottom nationally.

As the next phase approaches, Gov. Hutchinson said he was hopeful that supply would jump soon.

“Right now, we are getting about 50,000 doses a week,” he said. “I expect that to increase.”

Medical professionals say they have dealt with managing limited supply on a regular basis.

“It’s kind of a fluid situation,” Bright said. “From day-to-day, the information can change, priorities can change and being able to adapt to that is one of our strengths.”

Many are hopeful the distribution rate will continue to climb as the next round of vaccines approaches.

”Certainly phase 1-B will help us get more shots into more people quickly and efficiently,” Bright said. “That opening is going to help us get more people taken care of more quickly. So we’re very proud to see 1-B starting.”

But in the meantime it is all about managing supply and demand.

”We know that demand for the vaccine will far outweigh availability of the vaccine,” Bright said. “We’re asking our community to be very patient with us, we will get to them over the next weeks and couple of months.”

In the last few days, Arkansas pharmacies said they have received an outpouring of interest in vaccine appointments. Many said it has been overwhelming.

Pharmacies said those who are interested should call and schedule a vaccine appointment in advance. They are urging people to not just show up for a vaccine.

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