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17 Arkansas counties cut back on doses

Except for 2nd shots, they will get no new supplies for now by Andy Davis | April 24, 2021 at 8:19 a.m.
Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine lie in a box during preparations at the Vaccine Village in Ebersberg near Munich, Germany, in this March 19, 2021, file photo. (AP/Matthias Schrader)

Seventeen Arkansas counties won't receive additional doses of coronavirus vaccine, aside from those designated as second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines' two-dose regimens, under the state vaccination program next week as the state attempts to reduce its inventory, records show.

The counties include Craighead, the state's seventh-largest, and Miller, the 16th-largest.

In Pulaski County, the largest, the number of initial doses of Pfizer and Moderna going to providers under the state program will drop by 74%, from 34,510 this week to 8,820 next week.

State Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said the vaccine orders were based on requests from pharmacies and other providers.

[How is the coronavirus affecting you in Arkansas? Tell us here » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/form/]

"We got input from many of the providers about what vaccine they wanted, how much, and then we reached out to new providers about whether or not they wanted to begin to receive some vaccine," she said.

To her knowledge, she said, all the providers who requested vaccine will get it.

If a county isn't receiving additional doses next week, "I would have to assume it's because they had sufficient vaccine this time and didn't need further shipments at this point," Dillaha said.

Dillaha also said Friday evening that the Department of Health will wait until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes its full recommendations on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which she expects to happen Tuesday, before communicating to providers about whether they should resume giving those shots.

The CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week recommended a nationwide pause in the use of the vaccine after some people who received it developed a rare blood-clotting disorder.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

On Friday, following the recommendations of a CDC advisory committee led by Arkansas Health Secretary Jose Romero, the two federal agencies said the pause should be lifted but that people who receive the shots should be given information about the risk of the disorder.

Meanwhile, Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Friday by 236, a slightly smaller increase than the one a week earlier, as the pace of vaccinations continued to slow.

The number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19 fell by 18, to 153, its lowest level in almost a week.

The death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by five, to 5,716.

"Our new cases are almost identical to last week," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

"Our vaccination levels have declined a bit from previous weeks, but we still have a long way to go. Check the Department of Health website to find a vaccine clinic near you and schedule an appointment today."

REDUCTIONS WIDESPREAD

With the state vaccine supply exceeding the demand, Dillaha said Thursday that vaccine orders for next week would, for the first time, be significantly less than the weekly allocation from the federal government.

[Interactive Arkansas map not showing up above? Click here to see it: arkansasonline.com/arvirus]

The state was allocated enough of the Pfizer vaccine to provide initial doses to 44,460 people, but is ordering only 17,550, or 39%, of those doses.

It's ordering 13,800 initial doses of Moderna, amounting to 42% of the 32,600 initial doses allocated.

As of Thursday, Dillaha said Arkansas had about 358,000 unused doses of Pfizer, 288,000 doses of Moderna and 70,000 Johnson & Johnson doses.

Only one county, Benton, will get more initial doses under the state program next week than it did this week, according to vaccine orders to the federal government.

The number of doses going to that county will increase by 100, to 2,840.

Two counties, Garland and Boone, will get the same number of initial doses that they received this week.

Several other counties will have sharp drops. In Jefferson County, for instance, the number of initial doses being delivered will fall from 1,370 this week to just 100 next week.

In addition to the vaccine doses sent through the state program, some arrive through federal programs.

For instance, some pharmacies, including many in Walmart stores, receive vaccine shipments through the CDC's Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for Covid-19 Vaccination.

Details aren't readily available about vaccine shipments to the state through the federal programs.

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VACCINATIONS DOWN

The slowdown in the pace of Arkansas' vaccinations continued Friday, with the Health Department reporting an increase of 18,457 vaccine doses that had been administered.

That was down by more than 4,600 from the increase the department reported the previous Friday, April 16.

After peaking at more than 23,000 earlier this month, the average number of doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell to about 16,700, dropping below 17,000 for the first time since March 23.

According to the CDC, the number of Arkansans who have received at least one vaccine dose rose Friday by 6,765, to 1,039,897, representing about 34.5% of the state population.

The number who were fully vaccinated rose by 14,940, to 698,740, or about 23.2% of the population.

Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas continued to rank 43rd in the percentage of its residents who had received at least one vaccine dose and 46th in the percentage who were fully vaccinated.

Nationally, 41.3% of people had received at least one dose, and 27.5% were fully vaccinated.

ACTIVE CASES RISE

The increase in state coronavirus cases was larger than the one a day earlier, but smaller, by one, than the one the previous Friday.

"I think we're keeping the numbers relatively low, and that's a good thing," Dillaha said.

"The one thing that does give me pause is that our total active cases are gradually increasing."

The number rose Friday by 37, to 1,960, as new cases outpaced recoveries.

It was tied with the number on April 17 for the highest active case total since March 27.

"Not all cases get tested and identified, so the total active cases is really kind of the tip of the iceberg in terms of what cases are out there," Dillaha said.

"The bigger the tip of the iceberg, the more it makes me worry about the rest of the iceberg size."

Friday was the third day in a row the number of covid-19 patients in Arkansas hospitals fell after climbing to 177 on Tuesday.

The number of covid-19 patients on ventilators, however, rose Friday by one, to 23.

The number of covid-19 patients in intensive care as of 2 p.m. fell by eight, to 59.

The cases added in the state included 168 that were confirmed through polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests.

The other 68 were "probable" cases, which include those identified through less-sensitive antigen tests.

The cumulative count of cases rose to 334,458.

That comprised 262,078 confirmed cases and 72,380 probable ones.

Benton County had the most new cases, 46, followed by Pulaski County, which had 23, and Washington County, which had 18.

Neither the Health Department nor the Department of Corrections reported any new cases among prison or jail inmates.

The state death toll rose by four, to 4,539, among confirmed cases and by one, to 1,177 among probable cases.

Among nursing home and assisted-living facility residents, the count of virus deaths rose by one, to 2,072.

The number of people who have ever been hospitalized in the state with covid-19 rose by 17, to 15,745.

The number of state virus patients who have ever been on a ventilator remained at 1,610.

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