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Arkansas expands Phase 1-B for COVID-19 vaccine to include 65+ age group

The age threshold was lowered from 70 to 65, which will allow around 115,000 more Arkansans to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday (Feb. 23) that effective immediately, those age 65 and older will be included in Phase 1-B of the COVID-19 vaccination process.

The age threshold was lowered from 70 to 65, which will allow around 115,000 more Arkansans to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor said this does not mean that everyone aged 70 and older has been vaccinated, but the category has been expanded to include more Arkansans due to the increasing doses of vaccines being made available.

“At this point what we’re seeing is an increase in the vaccine that’s available and I think the vast majority of the state in the country has moved to 65 and I think it’s appropriate at this time,” said Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health.

You can reach out to your local pharmacy for more information on how to receive the vaccine. 

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Gov. Hutchinson says the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced another 1 million doses of the vaccine will be given nationwide, which will increase Arkansas' doses by about 4,000.

He says the state is on track to get through the vaccine distribution plan on schedule. 

“It all depends upon supply and I’m encouraged by the increase in supply that’s coming from the federal government and if that increase continues then we’re going to get to those categories more quickly,” Gov. Hutchinson said. 

The FDA is set to meet this week to consider recommending emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

“If emergency use authorization is given to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean that next week we could see another two million doses available nationwide,” Gov. Hutchinson said. 

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Phase 1-B includes Arkansans who are 65 or older as well as those who work in education including K-12, child care and higher education.

Vaccinations can also continue for groups in Phase 1-A, 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. 

The state saw 834 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, along with 14 new deaths. Hospitalizations continue to go down. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.