LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Nearly two months after the first few shipments of COVID-19 vaccines began arriving in Arkansas, a lot has changed. According to the CDC, since the start of 2021 the state went from 31% of received doses administered to 65% – a change the Department of Health says coincides with the move to 1B.
For health officials, this is a promising sign. “I’m so pleased with how things are going right now,” said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health.”We are doing a good job of getting the vaccine we do get in Arkansas quickly into the arms of people who are eligible for them.”According to the ADH, since December more than 397,000 Arkansans have gotten a dose of the vaccine, and the CDC adds that 90,000 of those are already fully vaccinating, having received both doses.
But although the state is starting to find its stride when it comes to vaccinations, Arkansas is still a long way from the next phase 1C in April, which may be further delayed depending on vaccine availability.”These are estimated times,” Dillaha said, “we might not make it.” She says Arkansas still isn’t receiving enough vaccines from the federal government to administer to everyone who wants it in our current phase, and appointments are still only limited to those 70 and up and education workers.
Companies like Johnson and Johnson are seeking emergency approval for their versions of the vaccine, including a one-dose shot from J&J. But the shipment boost following that approval won’t happen for some time, as the FDA and CDC still have to give the okay before vaccines can be sent to states.”We may have some doses of that vaccine available in Arkansas sometime in March,” Dillaha said.
Still, she notes that the state is miles away from where we started in December, and vaccination sites are seeing the progress. Dillaha is hopeful that soon, they will be able to stop planning day to day and instead look at vaccine shipments and appointments weeks in advance.”Up until now,” Dillaha said, “we haven’t been able to plan in advance very well, but we’re getting to the point where we can make that happen.”