Governor adds Arkansans 65 and older to group eligible for vaccines

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced that Arkansans aged 65 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the state.

“I am pleased to announce that we will be lowering the age group eligible to vaccination to 65 plus,” he said.

Hutchinson estimated that the change will add about 115,000 individuals to those eligible to receive a vaccination in the state.

“This is a large chunk but we want to keep the demand for vaccinations active,” he said. “We want to make sure that as we make progress in the 70 plus that we keep the lines filled, and moving to to 65 plus makes sense.”

The vaccinations will continue to be administered by community pharmacies and clinics in the state, along with retail pharmacies working on a federal program to vaccinate individuals around the country.

The state has been working to vaccinate individuals aged 70 and older, along with educators for the past several weeks, and that work will continue.

“This does not mean that everybody 70 and plus have been vaccinated because they haven’t,” he said.

The announcement comes as vaccination supply continues to increase in the state.

The governor announced that the state received 102,705 doses of the vaccine in the last 24 hours, and the federal government has secured an additional 1 million shots nationwide that will result in about 4,000 shots per week for at least the next three weeks in the state of Arkansas.

“As I spoke with the Coronavirus Task Force of the Biden Administration today I have been advised that we will increase our doses nationwide by 1 million, and that will be in addition to our current allocations,” he said.

The federal program to vaccinate individuals at retail pharmacies will also receive an additional 100,000 dose increase in their supply, he said.

Hutchinson said that if the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is approved by the FDA at the end of this week, and additional 2 million doses of vaccine could be released to the state as soon as next week.

Case update

The governor announced that COVID-19 cases in the state increased by 834 on Tuesday.

The state also announced 14 new deaths as a result of the virus, bringing the toll in the state to 5,377 since the pandemic began.

The number of new cases is higher than the numbers reported recently, and the governor said there is a chance the influx in new cases coming in are a result of a “catch up” due to the recent snow storm that covered much of the state last week.

Hospitalizations were down by 43 bringing the total number of Arkansans hospitalized in the state to 545. There are 99 patients on ventilators, down 10 from yesterday.

There are currently 4,807 cases of COVID-19 considered active in the state, which includes those that have tested positive by both PCR and antigen testing methods. Active cases and hospitalizations have trended downward for the last several weeks.

The state reported 2,496 new PCR tests on Monday, along with 2,101 new antigen tests.

The new cases bring the total cumulative count in Arkansas to 316,593 since the pandemic began.

The top counties for new cases on Monday were Benton (165), Pulaski (101), Washington (59), Garland (39), Faulkner (33), and Lonoke (33).

The state announced it has vaccinated 13,702 Arkansans since last count yesterday, bringing the total number of doses given by the state to 500,914. In addition, a federal program to vaccinate long-term care residents and others at retail pharmacies resulted in an additional 1,537 people vaccinated in the state.

Slides shown Tuesday