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Clinics vaccinated 411 Little Rock police, fire personnel, mayor's office says

by Joseph Flaherty | January 16, 2021 at 7:58 a.m.
FILE - In this Monday, May 25, 2020 file photo, a vile of a covid-19 vaccine candidate on a shelf during testing at the Chula Vaccine Research Center, run by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Clinics arranged through the city have resulted in covid-19 vaccines being administered to approximately 240 individuals in the Little Rock Police Department and 171 in the Little Rock Fire Department as of Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Jackson said she could not provide an estimate for how many personnel remain to be vaccinated because receiving the vaccine is not a requirement.

"Both departments, however, have been provided details for employees to access the vaccine, in case there were those who were unable to attend the various clinics last week," Jackson wrote in an email.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's administration moved first responders into the first wave of vaccinations, departing from a recommendation on vaccine distribution issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this month, Arkansas' Department of Health secretary, Dr. Jose Romero, said the decision to vaccinate first responders early fits Arkansas because the state is rural. Police and fire personnel are often the first to arrive at the scene of an accident in Arkansas, as opposed to ambulance or rescue crews, Romero suggested.

Inoculations for Little Rock emergency personnel kicked off Jan. 5, when a pair of longtime employees of the police and fire departments received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during an event open to the media that was held at a Fire Department facility on Murray Street.

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

With approximately 600 officers serving in the Police Department, the vaccinations administered because of the city's efforts thus far encompass less than half of the department's force.

Nevertheless, Jackson suggested that it is possible some of the other officers may have been vaccinated outside of the clinics arranged for first responders last week.

"Anecdotally, we know that has happened," Jackson wrote in an email.

She did not immediately respond when asked if the 240 vaccinations represent both sworn officers and other, non-sworn personnel who work for the Police Department.

The percentage of Fire Department personnel who have been vaccinated through the city's channels is roughly the same as the Police Department, according to the numbers provided by the city.

Capt. Jason Weaver, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said approximately half of the department's personnel have received the vaccine. Some firefighters have received the vaccine outside of the city-arranged avenues, he said.

"They've either had other opportunities or have gone to a pharmacy to be vaccinated, so that's just the base numbers that we've gotten done through the city," Weaver said of the 171 figure when reached by phone Friday.

Weaver said the Fire Department has slightly more than 400 firefighters, though he acknowledged the figure was an estimate.

The personnel who have received their first dose of the vaccine are expected to receive their second dose toward the end of January, Weaver said.

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