6.5 Percent of Arkansans Vaccinated As Biden Administration Announces Increase in Dose Allotments
During his weekly coronavirus response briefing Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is making progress on getting the COVID-19 vaccine into Arkansans’ arms. He cited rankings from The New York Times, which put the Natural State in tenth place with 6.5 percent of the population vaccinated against the virus so far. Hutchinson also said he wants Arkansans to know the state is making sure second doses of the vaccine are being allocated for those who’ve received the first dose. He acknowledged the state is still constrained by supply from the manufacturers, which is controlled by the federal government, which then allocates the doses to each state. While Arkansas has had a consistent supply of the vaccine each week, it hasn’t been increasing like he'd hoped. However, that could change next week. Right after the briefing, Hutchinson attended a meeting between the National Governors Association and the Biden administration where it was announced the federal government has purchased 200 million additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. President Biden also increased the weekly vaccine supply to states, tribes and territories from the current 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses each week, which means vaccination allotments for states are expected to increase by around 16 percent starting next week. When asked about the possibility of that announcement based on reports from national media outlets, Hutchinson said the state welcomes the increase in doses and will handle the increased supply the same way it's been handling the current supply. Hutchinson also provided an update on vaccinations being carried up by CVS and Walgreens under a federal contract. He said it won’t be long before the pharmacies are expected to fulfill their obligation of vaccinating residents and staff at long-term care facilities assigned to them. The state is working with both companies to use their extra doses to vaccinate people over the age of 70. Arkansas Healthy Secretary Dr. Jose Romero had other obligations Tuesday, so Dr. Jennifer Dillaha spoke at the briefing instead. Dillaha is the state’s medical director for immunizations and outbreak response. She reminded Arkansans who’ve been fully vaccinated that they should continue to wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds and wash their hands as new strains of COVID-19 emerge around the world. So far, there are no confirmed cases of the variants in Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson also provided an update on the state’s unemployment rate, which dropped from 6.3 percent in November to 4.2 percent last month. He attributed the drop to the state's balanced approach to reopening businesses. During the question and answer portion of the briefing, Hutchinson was asked about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system run by the state as people report long lines at unemployment offices across the state. He said the system is undergoing an update to reflect the revised benefit amounts and extensions. The governor was also asked about the lawsuit that was filed by Northwest Arkansas bar owners earlier this month and dismissed by a Pulaski County judge Tuesday morning. Hutchinson said the state has followed the law in issuing an 11 p.m. curfew on those establishments and it remains to be seen whether that executive order will be extended beyond Feb. 3. For the full coronavirus response briefing, click here.