Hutchinson expands vaccine availability

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Children as young as 12 will now be authorized to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Arkansas.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced the decision to expand availability of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine during his weekly address from Little Rock.

“This is an important news announcement so that parents can make plans to vaccinate their 12- to 15-year-olds in addition to those that are 16 and above, which has been previously approved,” Hutchinson said. “Many will wait until we get the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] final guidance. But you can call and make the appointment, anticipating that that guidance will be forthcoming and there will be some that will be ready to give that [vaccination] very quickly.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Hutchinson’s announcement came in the wake of Monday’s news that the Food and Drug Administration had given emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be administered to children aged 12-15 after a request from Pfizer, which announced in March that clinical trials found “100 percent efficacy and robust antibody responses” in study participants between the ages of 12 to 15.

Hutchinson said the expanded availability comes at a fortuitous time as the state pushes toward the vaccination he set last week, laying out a plan that he hopes will see half of all state residents at least partially vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by the end of July.

“This is important news for us as we try to reach the goal that we set of 50 percent of our total population being vaccinated by July 30,” Hutchinson said.

The new goal is part of a concentrated push toward achieving herd immunity for the state, a mark that may be hard to reach. Hutchinson has said previously that guidance from health officials has suggested that vaccination numbers would likely need to reach as high as 70 percent for “herd immunity” to take effect.

“It’s a little bit confusing because the federal goal is 70 percent of the adult population by July 4,” Hutchinson said. “So there’s two different metrics there. If you look at how we’re doing comparison with the federal metric, we are right now at 47.2 percent of the adult population. We’re moving toward that even though we’re a little bit behind where we’d like to be. Our vaccinations have increased over the last week and we hope that they will continue to increase.”

More information on the COVID-19 vaccines is available by calling the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Call Line at 1-800-985-6030.

According to Tuesday’s report from the Arkansas Department of Health, the state has received 2,575,110 combined doses of the various vaccines, with 1,822,941 — or 70.8 percent — already administered.

As of Tuesday, 816,236 Arkansans have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, while an additional 249,128 individuals are partially vaccinated. When combined, those numbers represent approximately 44.8 percent of Arkansans aged 16 and older.

“We’re making steady progress,” Hutchinson said. “We’re not having any dramatic increase in our cases and our hospitalizations are steady. We just have to get the vaccinations out.”

Tuesday’s ADH report indicated that the number of new cases of COVID-19 rose by 1,357 in the past week — down from last week’s increase of 1,464 — bringing the statewide total to 337,819. That total includes 264,292 lab-confirmed cases, 329,950 “recovered” cases and 5,770 deaths, up from 5,752 the week before.

There were 2,043 active cases reported in the state Tuesday, with 169 hospital admissions, 81 of which were in intensive care with 44 requiring the aid of a ventilator.

In Carroll County, the number of cases increased by seven in the past week, bringing the total to 2,808, which includes 2,376 confirmed cases, 2,753 “recoveries," 10 active cases and 45 deaths.

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