State Prepared to Roll Out COVID-19 Vaccines for Younger Arkansans

The CDC is expected to approve COVID-19 shots for kids 5 to 11 years old.

Black child getting vaccinated

Arkansas is well prepared to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 to 11 pending approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during his weekly briefing today. This comes as the Arkansas Department of Health reported an increase in cases among this age group during the last week. The state cannot issue vaccine mandates, according to Arkansas law, so the choice to vaccinate children will remain with parents. 

“This is something that is a parental decision for their children,” Hutchinson said. “We encourage it. We encourage that discussion and to get the right information, to talk to your physician, but there is no mandate on that particular age group.”

The COVID-19 vaccine will provide a new option for protection for 5 to 11-year-olds who have been vulnerable to the virus this year. Between the state’s winter and summer peaks, children in Arkansas saw a 50 percent increase in cases, 84 percent increase in hospitalizations and 64 percent increase in ICU admissions due to the Delta variant.

“They bore a big part of the brunt of a number of cases that we saw in this summer’s surge due to Delta so we need to protect them. This is a way to do so,” Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said. “I strongly recommend this for children in this age group.”

The dosage for children 5 to 11 years of age is smaller than for adults. The state will receive approximately 110,000 doses in the initial wave. There are roughly 271,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Arkansas. 

As soon as the CDC approves the vaccine for this group, vaccines will be available at local health units around the state. Every county in Arkansas has at least one. Health care providers who typically administer vaccines to kids for illnesses like the flu or smallpox will also have COVID-19 vaccines available. After the initial roll out, pharmacies and clinics that aren’t Vaccines for Children providers will be added to the group and start administering shots. 

More than 50 percent of Arkansas adolescents ages 12 to 18 have been partially or fully immunized. Parents who would like assistance finding a place providing COVID-19 vaccines for children can call ADH’s COVID-19 call center at 1-800-803-7847.

Next week’s weekly press briefing will be delayed because Gov. Hutchinson will be making an economic development trip to Israel that begins Saturday. This is his first international economic trip since the pandemic began. Hutchinson will discuss the opportunities for smart mobility at the Prime Minister’s Smart Mobility Summit 2021, which is scheduled for Nov. 8-9.

“And also, I’ll be focused on the aerodefense industry, which we have a good partnership with Israel, and aerodefense is one of our leading exports in terms of manufacturing,” Hutchinson said.

Around 5,000 people from 40 different countries are expected to attend the two-day conference. 

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.