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Varied coronavirus vaccine demand in Arkansas, explained

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette , Nyssa Kruse | March 30, 2021 at 12:44 p.m.
Nurse Lynn Carter gives Willie Hance his Covid-19 vaccine shot on Thursday, March 11, 2021, at Doctor's Orders Pharmacy in Pine Bluff. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

More than 700,000 Arkansans have received at least one covid-19 vaccine dose, but demand for shots is inconsistent across the state, even as more people become eligible.

Back up: How many people have been vaccinated so far and who is eligible right now?

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 731,532 people have received at least one dose so far.

Of those, the department said 390,079 are fully vaccinated.

All people in Phases 1-A, 1-B and 1-C are eligible. That includes essential workers such as grocery store and manufacturing employees, as well as people 16-64 with conditions that make them susceptible to severe illness if infected with coronavirus.

Go here to see our vaccine tracker page, which has more information on who is eligible.

What is vaccine demand like across the state?

Pharmacies in Central Arkansas said last week there was solid demand for vaccine appointments, but not every single slot is being filled.

In Northwest Arkansas, though, some pharmacies have reported waitlists numbering into the thousands. (The state is changing its distribution to give more doses to the region this week.)

A survey of The Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network, composed of independent and small-chain pharmacies in Arkansas, reported this weekend that 56% had vaccine appointments filled for the next 7-10 days while 44% were having trouble filling their slots.

For this reason, and because there are leftovers from last week, John Vinson, chief executive officer of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, said CPESN is likely going to order fewer than the roughly 14,000 Pfizer doses it is eligible for this week.

The association will order its full 4,000-dose allocation of Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Why is demand slowing down in some areas?

Kavanaugh Pharmacy co-owner Anne Pace said she thinks the people who really want the vaccine have gotten it, leaving just those who are hesitant.

Vinson said another factor may be that some Arkansans don’t know they're eligible based on health conditions, such as moderate-to-severe asthma or high body mass index. He said spring break last week may also have contributed to a dip in demand.

What’s next for vaccine distribution?

Vinson said he believes eligibility should be extended to anyone 16 and older soon to keep vaccines rolling out.

The governor said Monday he was meeting with health department officials to discuss expanding eligibility and will announce his decision Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

Read more on vaccination progress here, and for daily updates on roll out, check our vaccine tracker.

Visit our coronavirus page later today to watch the governor’s press conference and to read a recap of what he says, including whether shot eligibility will expand.


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