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Pandemic likely to continue if more people in Arkansas don't get vaccinated

Despite COVID-19 vaccines becoming available to the public, Arkansas clinics are having a hard time getting people to sign up for appointments.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Some pharmacists and clinics in Arkansas are already having trouble filling appointments just weeks after Gov. Asa Hutchinson opened it up to everyone.

"The last couple of weeks it's been slowing down quite a bit," Dr. Daniel Kate said.

Finding people to give shots to is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmacist Daniel Kate.

"It seems like we're starting to hit a wall," he said.

Between first and second dose appointments, Marketplace Pharmacy of Little Rock can fulfill 75-80 appointments a day. Wednesday it fulfilled 20.

"Unfortunately, I think vaccine supply caught up to demand," Dr. Kate said.

About 27 percent of people 16 and up in Arkansas are fully vaccinated. That's not even close to reaching herd immunity.

"So, we have a ways to go," Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha with the department of health said some estimates show that immunizations will need to reach 70-85 percent before herd immunity can be achieved. Doctors do not know the exact level we need to be at because it is a new virus.

"We will see more and more people infected if we're not able to get them immunized," she said. “If we don’t have enough people who are immune to COVID-19, it will continue to circulate in Arkansas. The more it circulates in Arkansas, the more likely it is to mutate.”

So, what happens if not enough people choose to get vaccinated and we can't reach herd immunity?

"The longer the pandemic will likely endure," Dr. Dillaha said.

There is some potential good news on the horizon. Dr. Dillaha said the vaccine will likely be approved for kids under 16 as soon as this summer.

"You can't really achieve herd immunity by just vaccinating people who are 16 and older," she said.

Her hope is that this will bring us closer to that 70 percent mark.

“If we can help protect them from spreading it and getting it, then that can protect everyone in the community," Dr. Dillaha said. "When it comes to COVID-19, no one is safe from it, unless we're all safe from it."

If you want to see this pandemic finally come to an end, doctors urge you to do your part.

"It's a good thing to do. A good way to protect yourself, your neighbors, and a good way to get us back to normal hopefully very soon," Dr. Kate said.