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story.lead_photo.caption On Jan. 7, Lt. Fred Batemon was one of the first Pine Bluff firefighters to receive the first of two doses of the covid-19 vaccination at Doctor's Orders Pharmacy. Administering the shot is Pine Bluff Pharmacist Lelan Stice. (Special to the Commercial)

Vaccinations began in Arkansas shortly after authorization was granted, and as Phase 1-A began for health care workers and residents of long-term facilities, fire and law enforcement personnel were included in the priority group.

Pine Bluff Fire Chief Shauwn Howell wasted no time getting vaccinated when the vaccine was made available to first responders through Doctor's Orders Pharmacy.

"Those who wanted to get vaccinated went on the seventh and eighth," said Howell, who added that he initially had 15 firefighters sign up. "They are still taking names and information to get as many people vaccinated as possible. We are doing our part to try to keep everyone safe."

On the first day, the pharmacy reported that more than 300 covid-19 vaccines were given to Jefferson County health-care workers and first responders.

Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. received his first dose last week after doing some research and after experiencing what he call life-changing events that altered his perception of the vaccine. Woods said he was skeptical based on misperceptions he had formed about how the vaccine works.

According to the CDC, the vaccine does not contain the live virus that causes covid-19. The CDC says currently there are no available vaccines that will prevent covid-19, but the vaccines that are available work by teaching the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus , and this protects the body from getting sick once exposed to the virus.

"The reason why I decided to take it is that I had talked to two friends who are physicians independently, and they convinced me by their knowledge and giving me their professional opinion," said Woods who added that he knew at least five people who have died from covid-19 and many others who are battling the infection.

On Monday night, Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson announced that former Sheriff Edward Lewis "Boe" Fontaine, who served from 1999-2006, was currently in ICU suffering covid-19 complications.

Woods said approximately 30 of his deputies have received the first dose of the vaccine.

Two vaccines are authorized at the moment, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna. Both require two shots to be effective. Currently, there is one covid-19 vaccine in Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States that uses one shot, according to the CDC.

The FDA authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine in individuals 16 years of age and older in two doses given three weeks apart.

The Moderna covid-19 vaccine is administered as a 2-dose series, 1 month apart for individuals 18 years of age and older.

Side effects have been reported such as injection site pain, tenderness and swelling and general side effects such as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and fever.

During the Christmas holiday, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington announced that she would be taking the vaccine once it was made available.

"On March 11 when our community heard that the first case of covid-19 in Arkansas had originated here in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, we were shocked," said Washington during the Arkansas Department of Health "Be the Gift" campaign in December. "Since then we have rallied together and worked hard to fight this deadly virus. This fight has not been easy."

Washington said many have lived with the fear of their loved ones potentially suffering or losing their lives while for others those fears have been brought to a painful reality. "The difficulties of these moments have been heightened by our inability to be close and to comfort one another--yet the covid-19 vaccine offers hope," said Washington. "Trusting this legitimate process is the first step in overcoming the pandemic and saving lives. It's going to take all of us in this fight"

Phase 1-B, originally set to begin in February was pushed up by Gov. Asa Hutchinson during his weekly update on Tuesday. Arkansas 70 or older, education faculty and staff members will be eligible for vaccinations beginning Monday.

Front-line essential workers will follow in Phase 1-B at a later date.

Health officials state that socially distancing and wearing masks will still be enforced after being vaccinated while experts learn more about the protection that vaccines provide under real-life conditions to help stop the pandemic.

Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. received his first dose last week after doing research and seeing people he knows get sick with the coronavirus and die. (Special to the Commercial)
Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. received his first dose last week after doing research and seeing people he knows get sick with the coronavirus and die. (Special to the Commercial)
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