Scratch-off lottery tickets or gift certificates for hunting and fishing licenses -- offered as incentives to Arkansans who get covid-19 vaccinations -- were handed out to just over 140 people on Tuesday, the first day the rewards could be claimed, a state Department of Health spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The department also reported that 1,371 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech weren't used by their expiration date Monday.
That brought the total number of vaccine doses in the state that have been lost to expiration to 1,991.
As of May 27, an additional 73,200 unused vaccine doses -- most of them from Johnson & Johnson -- had expiration dates coming up this month.
"I do regret that we aren't using them, that the demand has declined," state Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said Wednesday.
"I would much rather we use the vaccine as intended, to help promote protection against covid-19."
Meanwhile, Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Wednesday by 242 -- the first daily increase in five days that was larger than the one a week earlier.
After rising the previous two days, the number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19 fell by 11, to 190.
The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health, rose by one, to 5,835.
"New cases are higher than this time last week, but our active cases are down by over 300" compared with last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a tweet.
"Our numbers continue to remain consistent with reports from the past few weeks, but we want new cases to decline even further."
Over the past week as of Wednesday, the state had recorded an average of one covid-19 death per day, the lowest average daily death toll over a seven-day span since May 2020.
Hutchinson announced last week that Arkansans who receive a vaccine dose May 26 or later would be eligible for their choice of a $20 scratch-off lottery ticket or two Game and Fish Commission gift certificates worth a total of $21.
Since Tuesday, people have been able to claim one of the rewards by bringing their vaccination cards to one of the Health Department's 92 local health units around the state.
Health Department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill said the units on that first day gave out 122 lottery tickets and 22 pairs of Game and Fish Commission gift certificates.
"I think that's a start, and I'm hoping that more people will take advantage of getting vaccinated and receiving an incentive," Dillaha said.
"Going to a local health unit to pick up the incentive is an extra step, so I have some concern that that may diminish the ability of people to take advantage of it," she added.
She said state officials have discussed providing other options for people to claim the incentives, but she didn't know of any specific plans for that as of Wednesday.
Plenty of the prizes had yet to be claimed.
Hutchinson said last week that the state was using federal funds to purchase 50,000 of the lottery tickets and 50,000 pairs of gift certificates and could buy more if the program is successful.
The Health Department provided the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette with information last week on vaccine doses that were set to expire this month, including 59,755 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but didn't include exact expiration dates for most of the doses.
According to information the department provided Wednesday, 1,167 Johnson & Johnson doses that hadn't been used as of May 27 were set to expire on Wednesday of next week.
An additional 7,654 Johnson & Johnson doses had June 13 expiration dates, and 4,032 were set to expire on June 21. The remaining 46,902 doses with expiration dates this month were scheduled to expire June 23.
Providers participating in the state's vaccination program also had 13,445 Pfizer doses that were set to expire June 30.
None of the state's Moderna doses had June expiration dates.
Using all of the Johnson & Johnson doses before they expire would require the vaccinations to significantly accelerate from their current pace.
Since the first Johnson & Johnson doses arrived in the state in March, a total of 68,551 had been administered as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That includes 13,740, or an average of about 417 per day, that were given from May 1 through Wednesday.
By contrast, providers administered 137,982 doses of Pfizer and 143,959 of Moderna during the same period.
The CDC's figures include doses administered through federal programs and entities outside the vaccination program managed by the state.
Administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was halted nationwide for about two weeks in April after reports that six women developed rare blood clots after receiving the shots.
Federal health officials cleared the vaccinations to resume on April 23 after experts reviewed the cases of a total of 15 women who developed the clotting disorder and found that the benefits of the shots outweighed the risks.
Shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been halted for weeks after a manufacturing error at a plant in Baltimore caused millions of doses to be discarded and production to be stopped while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigates the matter.
Dillaha said she expects "a fair number" of Arkansas' Johnson & Johnson doses, which are made by the company's Janssen Pharmaceutical Unit, to be used before they expire.
"There are a lot of places that are preferring the Janssen vaccine, such as work sites or special events, because it's just one dose, so it's less disruptive to a workplace," she said.
Compared with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's also has a "milder side-effect profile," she said.
The vaccine is available at local health units, as well as at several pharmacies and hospitals.
At 48 clinics around the state from May 24 through Sunday, the Health Department administered 327 Johnson & Johnson doses, for an average of just under seven doses per event.
Baptist Health announced Wednesday that it will be administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at appointment-only drive-thru clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays from today through June 22 at 10117 Kanis Road in Little Rock.
Appointments can be scheduled by calling (501) 202-1540.
Baptist Health system spokeswoman Cara Wade said in an email that the system has about 2,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson, all of which expire later this month.
She said it also has about 30,000 Pfizer doses that are "good until later in the summer."
The number of covid-19 vaccine doses of any type that had been administered in Arkansas, including second doses of Pfizer and Moderna, rose Wednesday by 5,817 -- the eighth daily increase in a row that was smaller than the one the previous week.
The average number of doses administered each day over a rolling seven-day period fell to 5,258 -- the lowest level since the state began publicly reporting daily vaccination numbers in early January.
According to the CDC, the number of Arkansans who had received at least one vaccine dose rose Wednesday by 883, to 1,196,107, representing about 39.6% of the state's population.
The number who had been fully vaccinated rose by 807, to 943,122, or about 31.3% of the population.
Among the states and District of Columbia, Arkansas continued to rank 45th in the percentage of its residents who had received at least one vaccine dose and 49th, ahead of only Alabama and Mississippi, in the percentage who had been fully vaccinated.
Nationally, 50.8% of people had received at least one vaccine dose, and 41% were fully vaccinated.
INCREASE 'NOT SURPRISING'
Wednesday's increase in cases was larger by 59 than the one the previous Wednesday.
It was the largest one-day rise since May 25.
Dillaha said the increase was "not surprising."
"We saw a higher number of cases, but I would expect that right after the holiday when you're catching up on the testing," she said.
After reaching a low for the year on Tuesday, the average daily increase in cases over a rolling seven-day period rose Wednesday by about eight, to 142.
The number of cases in the state that were active, which also reached a low for the year on Tuesday, rose by 62, to 1,658, as new cases outpaced recoveries.
The number of covid-19 patients who were on ventilators fell by one, to 37.
The cases that were added to the state's tallies on Wednesday included 130 that were confirmed through polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests.
The other 112 were "probable" cases, which include those identified through less-sensitive antigen tests.
The state's cumulative count of cases rose to 341,692.
That comprised 266,856 confirmed cases and 74,836 probable ones.
Pulaski County had the most new cases, 37, followed by Benton County, which had 21, and Saline County, which had 18.
Among prison and jail inmates, the Health Department's count of cases rose by one.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Cindy Murphy said the number of cases among inmates rose by five, to 1,781, at the Ouachita River Unit in Malvern.
A total of nine cases at the prison were active as of Wednesday, she said.
The state's death toll rose by one, to 1,207, among probable cases and remained at 4,628 among confirmed cases.
Among nursing home and assisted living facility residents, the state's count of virus deaths rose by one, to 2,092.
The number of people who have ever been hospitalized in the state with covid-19 grew by 30, to 16,376.
The number of the state's virus patients who have ever been on a ventilator rose by five, to 1,666.