Walmart to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines in Arkansas

The retailer is receiving 10,000 doses of the vaccine through a federal program.

Health Secretary Dr. José Romero
Health Secretary Dr. José Romero speaks during a weekly update on the pandemic Feb. 2, 2021.

A local Walmart store soon will be the latest place where eligible Arkansans can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies can accept and administer federal allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine through the U.S. Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

During his weekly update on the pandemic yesterday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said as a preferred federal partner, Walmart will receive approximately 10,000 doses beginning Feb. 11 to be distributed in more than 60 Arkansas stores.

“This is over and above our state allocation and we’re delighted to have that partnership that will be another source of vaccine administration for our 70 plus and others that want to utilize that service opportunity,” Hutchinson said. 

The Biden administration’s coronavirus task force also told Hutchinson yesterday Arkansas will receive a 5 percent increase in vaccine supplies beginning this week. This is on top of a 16 percent increase in supply announced last week. Hutchinson said he was assured the supply chain will be good for three weeks. 

“That’s very helpful as we plan for how we can best distribute these vaccines in a fair way,” Hutchinson said. 

The governor also announced he is not extending the state’s 11 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. The curfew expires today. 

“That was important to have through Christmas and New Years,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “Our cases and hospitalizations are down and so I’ve made that judgement and wanted to give that notice today.”

Yesterday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 869 hospitalizations, a decline of 20 in a 24-hour period. This reflects a recent decline in COVID-19 numbers and Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said the state is headed in the right direction with regard to cases and hospitalizations.

“At the same time I want to remind everyone that even though we are making improvements, it’s not a time to back off on the three things that we think are the most important for physical mitigation of infection and that’s wearing the mask, washing our hands and keeping distance,” Romero said.

These mitigation tactics are what will help bring the pandemic under control and prevent the spread of variants of the virus that are more easily transmissible.

“We don’t know that we have them yet here in Arkansas, I suspect they are, we just need to find them,” Romero said. “But once they take hold ,they will become the dominant virus in our community.”

Two COVID-19 vaccines are currently being distributed in Arkansas and a third produced by Johnson & Johnson could receive Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as early as this month, Romero said. The new vaccine is a single dose shot unlike the currently approved vaccines, which require two doses. 

“When offered I encourage you to take them. We are only going to be able to get past this pandemic if we have enough immunity,” Romero said. 

The vaccine is safe, effective and has been studied across all groups of people, he said. All of the major vaccines prevent death and decrease hospitalizations significantly.   

Additional information about vaccine distribution as well as the COVID-19 case count in the state is available on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website

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.