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Efforts aim to expand options for vaccination in Arkansas

Latest report shows progress, governor says by Tess Vrbin | May 2, 2021 at 9:06 a.m.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock junior Hailey Hudson of North Little Rock gets her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from nurse Nick Kitchens during UALR's vaccine clinic put on by Don's Pharmacy on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. .(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

Malinda Berthia and her family decided to get their covid-19 vaccinations together. Because of their full work and school schedules during the week, their opportunity for the first dose of the Pfizer shot didn't come until Saturday, she said.

"Especially if you work during business hours, and we do, Saturday is a better time that we could meet up to do it," Berthia said. "We made the decision that if one did it, all would do it."

Berthia works in health care. Her husband is a driver. Her son works in a restaurant, and her daughter is a student. So none of them were able to limit their interactions with others since the pandemic began more than a year ago. She said the Little Rock family is grateful they will no longer have to worry about exposure to the virus once they are fully vaccinated.

CHI St. Vincent set up a vaccination clinic at the Southwest Community Center in southwest Little Rock, an area of the city that CHI market director of mission integration Michael Millard said has been underserved.

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"This is a concerted effort to try to bring the vaccine to the people, rather than asking people to come to us to get the vaccine," Millard said.

Halfway through the two-hour clinic, about 60 people had received shots, and more than 40 were waiting in line. Millard said the response exceeded his expectations, and there will be another clinic at the same location on May 22 to administer the second doses.

Vaccinations reported by the state Saturday totaled 19,536, the highest number in a day since April 22. The pace of vaccinations slowed throughout April.

"Today's report shows much better vaccine numbers compared to last week," Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted Saturday. "I'm encouraged by the number of Arkansans who are getting vaccinated. Let's continue the progress we've made."

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Hutchinson said Monday that the use of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine could resume in Arkansas after a nationwide "pause" that was implemented on April 13 after some people outside Arkansas who received the vaccine developed a rare blood-clotting disorder.

The Department of Health is aware of 589 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine given in the state last week, communications director Meg Mirivel said.

"We are still hearing interest in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the state, and expect the availability of that vaccine to help increase the number of Arkansans who are vaccinated," she said.

Health care providers will offer the Johnson & Johnson shots to spectators at the Arkansas Travelers' opening game Tuesday in North Little Rock, officials said Friday. Hutchinson had said Tuesday that he would like to see Travelers games become an option for people to receive vaccinations.

Mirivel said the Health Department is working to offer vaccinations at other large venues and events, such as at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

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The Health Department reported 243 new covid-19 cases Saturday, 59 more than a week earlier. The number of new cases per day has been near or greater than 200 since Tuesday.

Two more people were hospitalized Saturday with covid-19 for a total of 168 after two consecutive days at 166. Twenty-nine patients are on ventilators, one more than Friday, according to Health Department data.

Benton County had the most new cases Saturday with 41. Pulaski County had 30 new cases, and Washington County had 29.

Two Arkansans died of covid-19 Saturday, bringing the total deaths in the state to 5,741 since March 2020.

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Arkansas has now seen 335,968 covid-19 cases.


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