Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday urged pharmacies and hospitals to restart vaccinations this weekend to make up for shots that were postponed due to snowstorms this week.
“It is critical to get our vaccines out as quickly as possible, and we have to catch up on the missed appointments and slow vaccine distribution over the last week,” Hutchinson said in a news release.
He expressed urgency about wanting to make more Arkansans eligible for the shots. Health care workers, first responders and residents and workers at long-term care facilities fall under Phase 1-A of the state's vaccination plan and were the first to become eligible.
Last month, the state made the shots available to Arkansans age 70 and older and employees of schools and child care centers, all of whom fall under Phase 1-B of the plan.
"Frontline essential workers," such as employees of grocery stores and factories, also fall under 1-B but are not yet eligible for shots.
Hutchinson has said he hopes to expand the availability of the shots by next month.
“We need to move to other categories of 1-B, and the sooner we get more of our 70+ vaccinated then the sooner we will be able to add more Arkansans to the eligible list," Hutchinson said Friday.
"If you are a pharmacy with available vaccines, then I am asking you to schedule as many appointments as possible this weekend. If you are in an eligible category, then please make your appointment.”
John Vinson, chief executive officer of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, said he supported Hutchinson's request.
"Through survey data, our network of community pharmacies are reporting to the Arkansas Pharmacists Association that they have adequate capacity to double or triple their appointment slots over the next two weeks to reschedule appointments from this week, to schedule new appointments for the future and to respond to the increase in the vaccine supply for Arkansas," Vinson said in the release.
Health Secretary Jose Romero said the spread of more-contagious coronavirus variants adds urgency to the need to catch up on the delayed vaccinations.
“These vaccines are very effective against COVID-19,” Romero said in the release.
“The faster we can all get vaccinated, the faster we can protect our population and hold off the variant strains that are circulating around the world and in the U.S. Please join us in making up your appointment this weekend if you had to delay it because of the weather.”