LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday (March 16) that the state will be opening up COVID-19 vaccine distribution to those in Phase 1-C effective immediately.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the following are in Phase 1-C:
- Arkansans ages 16-64 with health conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19
- Essential workers in:
- Food service
- Information technology and communications
- Public health/human services
- Public safety
- Shelter and housing
- Transportation and logistics
- People residing in high-risk settings
- Includes those who are incarcerated or detained
- Those living in group homes, congregate settings or crowded housing
- Student housing such as dorms and Greek housing.
Gov. Hutchinson says there are almost one million Arkansans in this category.
"Just because we're opening it up to 1-C category does not mean that you're going to be able to get an appointment this week or perhaps next week," Hutchinson said.
The reason for the expansion stems from the Biden Administration's push to have all Americans eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1, 2021.
“They are increasing the production and hope to have that supply increased in May,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
The governor says right now about 10% of the state is vaccinated and he hopes that number will greatly increase in the coming weeks.
Gov. Hutchinson also mentioned rural parts of the state are less enthusiastic about getting that vaccine appointment scheduled.
“In those environments, we get the supply there but many instances we have a low acceptance rate so we have to increase that at the same time we’re increasing the opportunity for those all across the state to get vaccinated as well,” he said.
The governor said the state is still receiving around 85,000 doses of the vaccine each week.
With spring break around the corner, Gov. Hutchinson recommends those who do travel out of state get tested when they return.
"If you’re going back to an institution of higher education or coming back to join the family go ahead and get a test, that’s a good time to get a test to make sure you are not going to be taking something from another state or a party somewhere and spreading it around in that state,” he said.
As for whether the statewide face mask mandate will remain in effect after March 31, 2021, the governor says the state must meet particular criteria set by the Department of Health, which considers hospitalization rates and many other factors.
Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero says he hopes Arkansans will receive the vaccine so the state can continue heading in the right direction.
"So please we need you to accept the vaccine as you can see from the governor's report," Dr. Romero said. "Right now about 55% of our 65 and older have received one dose. That is not enough to have herd immunity we need to have somewhere around 70 to 90% of our population.”
You can call the ADH COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-800-985-6030 for more information.