Health officials say the group has a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Although all eligible Arkansans are encouraged to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, health officials are focused on people 65 and older as cases continue to climb in the Natural State. Just over a third of this population has received a booster dose of the vaccine.
This age group has the greatest risk of adverse outcome, Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said during a press conference this afternoon. The vaccine is effective, but its efficacy wanes over time and tends to take less hold in older populations, he said.
“We want the elderly to please receive that vaccine because they’re the ones that are breaking through in higher numbers as their immunity wanes over time,” Romero said.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported 932 new cases today and hospitalizations have increased by four to 456 during the last 24 hours. Nearly 88 percent of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations since Feb. 1 have been individuals who are not fully vaccinated.
“It’s clear that those individuals that are not vaccinated are making up the bulk of the hospitalizations,” Romero said. “There are individuals that are getting older, their immunity is waning and they’re contributing to those hospitalizations, but they are far less than those that have not been vaccinated.”
Romero also encouraged the vaccination of 5 to 11-year-olds, the most recent age group to be approved to receive the vaccine. While Arkansas is moving forward with vaccinations for children, the state is 5 to 6 percent below the national average.
Health officials are continuing to monitor for the new omicron variant of COVID-19. While it has not been identified in Arkansas, it has been reported in neighboring states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.
“We know that those cases are breaking through in vaccines so again, we want everybody to be fully immunized and get their boosters as appropriate in case we start to see cases here in the state,” Romero said.
Nearly 77,500 doses of the vaccine have been administered during the last week with 17,052 shots given during the last 24 hours. That’s the highest single-day total since Aug. 26.
“Whenever the risk increases, our vaccination increases, which means that Arkansans actually know they need to get the vaccine, they just have a tendency to put it off because they see the risk diminishing,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
More information about COVID-19 vaccines is available on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website.