LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas ranks 48th in the country – only ahead of Alabama and Mississippi – in terms of percentage of the population fully vaccinated. In Arkansas, that number is 35%.
Head of the state’s vaccine distribution program, Ret. Col. Robert Ator, said the reason is not the supply of the vaccine.
Arkansas started with only 236 providers throughout the state.
“Now we’re up to almost 1,800 different providers around the state so we’ve got it in every nook and cranny of the state,” Col. Ator said.
The 65+ population of the state has been vaccinated at 72%. Many younger age groups are nowhere near that level of vaccination and Ator says the recent number trend shows that.
“The hospitalization numbers have crossed. We have more younger people being hospitalized than older folks,” he said.
Governor Asa Hutchinson said at one of his recent press conferences on the matter the average age of hospitalizations has gone down around 10 years.
Col. Ator said much of the hesitancy in Arkansas is caused by other influences.
He doesn’t believe access is as much of a problem as it has been made out to be. Although some people do live in very rural and isolated parts of the state, Col. Ator said they are isolated from everything including food and basic healthcare needs.
He said that where people get their information from has been one of the biggest issues they have battled.
“The messaging has been difficult, it is, because where people gather their news is all over the place. I will tell you that social media has been a major, major burden for us,” he said.
Col. Ator stresses that all three versions of the vaccine (Pfizer, Maderna, and Johnson and Johnson) are safe and are effective against all current variants of the virus.
He reminds people in the very beginning the vaccines were said to have an efficacy of 95%.
“We’re operating at 99.4%, so we’re beating the efficacy numbers that were promised to us and so they’re very, very effective,” he explained.
In recent weeks he says they have seen vaccine numbers drop anywhere from 8-12% weekly, but with recent spikes in numbers and information being put out on the percentage of unvaccinated people getting sick from COVID, he thinks the message may be getting to some who have been hesitant in the past.
“What we’re seeing now is a 7.5% increase in demand so we’ve arrested the decent and we’re starting to see people a little more open to getting the vaccine.”