Arkansas opens vaccine to everyone in Phase 1B

Updated: Mar. 8, 2021 at 6:21 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The state of Arkansas is taking action to boost demand for the vaccine after a weekend of low turnout for doses.

The state hopes to get numbers up by making more people eligible.

“We noticed that we did not have the demand that we anticipated which indicates either people are getting the vaccinations in different places, we’re getting more of them covered but it also could simply indicate that there’s some resistance to the vaccines,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said.

To get numbers up, the state is now making more people eligible.

“We want to open it up more fully today to all the categories in 1B,” Hutchinson said.

Previously they were only allowing people 65 and older, education and food manufacturing workers.

This change now makes manufacturing facilities, public transport, and essential government services employees eligible.

Hutchinson says that’s about 180,000 people.

“I also want to announce that we’re moving from 1C to the 1B category people with intellectual or developmental disabilities ,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson also announced the launch of a statewide vaccination appointment system.

Calling 1-800-985-6030 will get you an appointment at one of the 5 mass COVID-19 vaccination sites the Department of Health is hosting later this week.

First, vaccines will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and no reservations will be required.

The state hopes to vaccinate everyone that falls under phase 1B by the end of March and opens up 1C in April.

The state has received 24,400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, a lot more than they were expecting and therefore only one group will receive it.

State officials say since they won’t receive more follow-up vaccines for the next two weeks this batch of the J&J vaccines will go towards employees in the food processing industry.

That includes poultry plants, meat processing and grain milling, nearly 50,000 workers.

“We’re turning that to our food processing that was identified last week and so we’ve got targets for them we’re going to make a good dent,” program manager vaccine distribution, Colonel Robert Ator said.

They hope to have everyone that works in the food processing industry vaccinated by the end of this week.

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