Effort Underway to Bring Mobile Health Unit to Camden for Vaccination Support

The mayor’s office is accepting registrations from residents age 65 and older.

One of the first hurdles with COVID-19 vaccine distribution was assuring Arkansans the shot was safe and effective. Now that people are more comfortable with the idea of the vaccine and are seeking appointments, the new challenge is having enough supply to meet the demand. 

Early on in the vaccination roll out, Camden Drug and Bearden Pharmacy were the only two pharmacies distributing the vaccine in Camden and they were only allotted a couple hundred doses each week, Mayor Julian Lott said. 

“In the recent weeks Walgreens and Walmart have begun to give the shot, but we’re still not getting enough for our area,” Lott said.

Mayor Lott estimates there are about 12,000 people in Camden and several eligible residents are struggling to access the COVID-19 vaccine.

“One lady called and said that in Camden, Arkansas that 1,200 people are ahead of her. That’s amazing,” he said.

Like many towns around the state, Camden receives a limited number of vaccines each week and Lott said the community is doing the best it can. However, in an effort to provide more vaccines, the mayor began exploring the possibility of bringing a mobile health unit to the area. He then found out Rep. David Fielding, a Democrat from Magnolia, was doing the same thing after hearing from constituents struggling with vaccine accessibility.

“The pharmacists just weren’t enough to try and take care of the whole thing,” Fielding said.

Rep. Fielding is working with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to bring a mobile health unit to his district in an effort to speed up the vaccination process. UAMS requires a minimum of 250 patients to deploy the unit, so officials are now collecting the names of local residents interested in the COVID-19 vaccine. If they surpass that minimum, health officials will adjust accordingly.

“If I get a list saying we got 500, then we’re going to bring 500 down,” Fielding said. 

Officials are specifically seeking residents who are 65 years old and older. Mayor Julian Lott’s office is helping facilitate the signup process and he said the phone was “ringing off the hook” after announcing the initiative Wednesday. As they continue collecting names, officials are also exploring options for a safe vaccination site. 

“We want to make it as successful and as easy as we possibly can,” Lott said.

Arkansans 65 years of age and older who want to sign up can call the mayor’s office at 870-836-6436 and ask for Brandi. 

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.