COVID-19 vaccine: Who can and cannot get it right now
Pharmacies are being flooded with questions about when people can get the COVID-19 vaccine, but the situation is in flux.
Arkansas is still in category 1A for the vaccine rollout. The first people to get the vaccine were hospital staff followed by nursing home and long-term care facilities residents and staff. The most recent category has been opened up to healthcare workers, focused on primary care and urgent care workers.
The most recent group the vaccine has become available to are first responders. These include paramedics, police officers and firemen.
According to Fort Smith Fire Chief Phil Christensen, several Fort Smith firemen have already received the vaccine and Fort Smith Police Chief Danny Baker was scheduled to receive the vaccine Tuesday afternoon.
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Local pharmacist and state Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith told the Times Record that while the timeline for the next category is still being decided, pharmacies are monitoring the situation and prepared to administer the vaccine to those who are eligible.
The main thing pharmacists want to communicate area residents is that they are tracking the situation and will make sure the vaccine is available to the public when the government decides to move to the next category of disbursement.
For the general public
Kelly Rappeport of MediSav stated the pharmacy receives daily emails from the Arkansas Department of Health and Pharmacy Association on status updates and when the vaccine will be available to the general public.
A sign-up sheet or waiting list for the general public to get the COVID-19 vaccine has not been established. Phase II, when the general public could get a vaccine, will be after Phase 1C, which is expected to be two months away.
The first round of vaccines went out the week before Christmas and within four weeks, Arkansas has moved from 1A.1 through 1A.2 and is now at 1A.3. Stage 1B is when essential workers will be eligible to be vaccinated.
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There are 180,000 Arkansans in category 1A. Pharmacies and hospitals are administering this category.
There have been more than 130,000 doses received and 28% of that has been administered.
Category 1B was reduced to Arkansans over age 70 on Tuesday during the governor's press conference. There are 400,000 residents in this category without essential workers included. The goal is to complete this phase in 60 days and is set to begin Feb. 1. Local health units are set to help pharmacies administer this effort.
Category 1C will be other essential workers, Arkansans age 65 to 69 and residents over 16 years old with medical conditions that put them at risk of COVID-19.
Hospital workers who received their initial doses first are due to receive their second dose this week.
There are two vaccines that have received emergency authorization, Pfizer and Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine is being used in the hospitals while the Moderna vaccine is being used in the pharmacies for long-term care facilities.
According to University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences President Cam Patterson, there have been no significant adverse effects of the vaccine. Patterson noted that 30% of UAMS staff expressed reluctance to get the vaccine, but repeated Romero's assurance that the benefits far outweigh the risk of the vaccine.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Jose Romero acknowledged that the stages are tentative, but that was to be expected. Romero also pointed out there are two more vaccines in the pipeline and set to go up for emergency use authorization.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated that plans for category 1B will be online by Jan. 15.