Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday urged parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible, noting that public school and higher education students who are fully vaccinated no longer have to quarantine following an exposure to someone with covid-19.
"This is not something that should wait to next year," Hutchinson said. "It needs to be done now for the students. They need to take advantage of that."
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for people 12 and older. The other two vaccines authorized for use in the United States are only cleared for those 18 and older.
At his weekly news conference at the state Capitol, Hutchinson also said he's concerned about the number of unused vaccine doses in the state with approaching expiration dates.
He said he's spoken to White House officials about doses set to expire this month.
If the doses can be used within the state before they expire, he said he'd like for them to go elsewhere.
"The first thing I would like to see, if there’s doses, whether it’s Arkansas or elsewhere, that are unused, that we get those to India or to Brazil or other places that need it.
"It is not lawful for a state to do that. It takes the federal government to do it, and the federal government is taking it on to send additional doses to those countries."
Another option is to send the doses to other states, he said, but "every state's in the same boat we're in, that they have some doses that are set to expire."
Some doses that were shipped directly to the state Department of Health can also be kept "quarantined" there for possible use if federal officials decide to extend a vaccine's shelf life based on new information, he said.
As of Monday, Arkansas had 67,641 unused doses with expiration dates this month.
The bulk of those - 54,526 - were the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The remaining 13,115 doses were of Pfizer.
Meanwhile, Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Tuesday by 231 - the fifth daily increase in a row that was larger than the one a week earlier.
The number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19 rose by 29, to 204, its highest level since March 20.
The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Health Department, rose by three, to 5,852.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson provided his weekly media update at 1:30 p.m.
Hutchinson will discuss the U.S. Air Force's decision to select Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, as the home of future F-35 fighter planes, as well as other "topics of the day," according to a news release by the governor's office.
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