We are in our second month of inoculating Arkansans against COVID-19, and today I’d like to talk about the progress we are making.
We have received nearly 473,000 doses of the vaccine, and we have administered right at 252,000 of the first dose. Arkansas ranks in the Top 15 states in the number of doses administered, and we are also giving out the second dose of the vaccine on schedule with a separate supply for the second dose.
Our goal is to vaccinate all those who are eligible in the 1-A category by the end of January. This includes health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and first responders. We expect to meet that objective. We also added to the mix some elements of Phase 1-B, which includes people older than seventy, teachers and school staff, and daycare workers. Once we complete these categories, we will go into other essential workers. Those are identified on our Arkansas Department of Health website. You should remember that this is subject to adjustment as we receive additional information and different CDC guidance.
I have designated Colonel Robert Ator to coordinate and oversee the distribution of the vaccine.
Colonel Ator, whose friends call him Gator, is a retired wing commander of the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard.
With his experience in logistics and supply-chain, Colonel Ator is the perfect person to oversee this mission.
As part of our distribution plan, we are working with pharmacies and with state hospitals and other providers to streamline the administration of the vaccines. Our Department of Health team is tracking the supply and redistributing excess vaccine to ensure that the doses are at the sites where they are most needed. The team also is attempting to increase the supply of vaccine and to improve communication with the public and our medical providers.
The vaccine is our best hope for containing COVID-19, and while the number of new COVID cases are gradually trending down, this is no time to let up.
Bryan Duffie, who is superintendent of the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, reports that about 55 percent of the district’s staff has received the vaccine. We do hope that number increases.
The district partnered with Baptist Hospital North Little Rock, and on the first day, 115 staff members took the vaccine.
Danyelle Musselman, wife of Razorbacks basketball coach Eric Musselman, wants the vaccine so that she can safely visit her sister, who had a heart transplant and is in the high-risk category. She said she has studied vaccines. She said she likes to read and know things for herself rather than listen to opinions.
Danyelle said that “it’s time to get to the other side of this, and the vaccine is the way to do it. We all want to spend time with our friends and family. We want to have birthday parties. We want to have dinners out. We want to have fans at Razorback games.”
Now that we have vaccines, and we have folks such as Colonel Ator and the incredible team at the Department of Health, Superintendent Duffie, and Danyelle Musselman leading the way, we are going to beat this. The First Lady and I have had our vaccine, and there were no side effects. I encourage all of you to get the vaccine at your first opportunity. We’re all ready to get to the other side of this pandemic.