COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Expanded to Phase 1-C Effective Immediately

Food service workers and incarcerated Arkansans are among those who can now be vaccinated.

Health Secretary Dr. José Romero
Health Secretary Dr. José Romero provides an update on the pandemic Mar. 16, 2021.

One week after opening up COVID-19 vaccines to all Arkansans in Phase 1-B, Governor Asa Hutchinson has expanded eligibility to everyone in Phase 1-C. This group includes people 16 to 64 years old with health conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19, as well as essential workers in the food service, legal and media industries. Arkansans residing in high-risk settings including those who are incarcerated or living in group homes, are also part Phase 1-C. 

It’s important to open up vaccinations to the estimated 1 million people in this category, Hutchinson said, because there has been slow down in demand in some parts of the state. There is a lower acceptance rate of the vaccine in rural areas, which the governor said needs to be overcome.

“In those environments we get the supply there, but in many instances we’ve had a low acceptance rate. We have to increase that,” Hutchinson said. “At the same time, we’re increasing the opportunity for those all across the state to get vaccinated as well.” 

Vaccines are becoming more available throughout the state and during yesterday’s weekly update on the pandemic, Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said the vaccine is what’s going to get us through the pandemic more than anything else. 

“We’re getting more vaccines. We are targeting areas where there is some reluctance with education,” Romero said. “We will make this vaccine available as it becomes more available to us.”

The state is receiving about 84,000 doses of the vaccine each week and that’s expected to increase as production of the vaccine increases. About 10 percent of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated; however, 70 to 90 percent must be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. 

The Arkansas Bankers Association is partnering with the Arkansas Pharmacists Association to help with the vaccination process. Sometimes pharmacies do not have the space needed for a vaccination clinic. Through this new initiative, ABA will allow pharmacies to stage clinics at various bank locations. Arkansans still need to make an appointment for these clinics through their local pharmacy.

“We appreciate the partnership with the governor’s office and with the pharmacy association, and our goal is to help get shots in every arm,” ABA president and CEO Lorrie Trogden said. 

Arkansans can receive assistance in finding vaccine appointments by calling the Arkansas Department of Health’s new vaccine hotline as 1-800-985-6030.

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.