While the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has made its way to Columbia County, neither it nor the Pfizer COVID vaccine will be available to the general public for some time more.
Unlike flu clinics that have made their way through the county in a yearly effort to stop the spread of influenza, there are currently not enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in the state to distribute to every resident at this time.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, “there won’t be enough vaccine initially for all adults who want to receive it.” Supply of the two vaccines is supposed to increase throughout the year, and additional vaccines may be authorized for use, according to the ADH.
A vaccine distribution plan developed by the ADH outlines the “phased approach” the state is taking in administering the COVID-19 vaccines. According to the “Vaccine Plan in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic,” initial populations prioritized for the vaccine will be based on federal guidance. Phases 1-A, 1-B and 1-C of vaccine distribution in Arkansas will cover high-risk persons and essential and frontline workers.
The ADH notes in the vaccination plan that “because of uncertainty of COVID-19 vaccine production, plans must be flexible and should include high-demand and low-demand scenarios.”
The ADH COVID-19 vaccine plan has changed before: first responders were not listed in Phase 1-A when the ADH first released its vaccine plan but were later removed up.
“We believe that they should stay in 1-A because they are putting themselves at risk,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Jan. 6.
The governor also announced last week that the state would make the vaccine available to some people who fall into eligibility category 1-B starting Monday, Jan. 18.
“Where we are right now, in talking with our hospitals, our COVID Winter Task Force and with (ADH Secretary) Dr. Romero and his team, we have reached the point, in terms of our 1-A phase, that we’re on target to reach that by the end of the month and we are ready to move into two categories of 1-B,” Hutchinson said on Jan. 13.
As of Jan. 18, the ADH planned to vaccinate Arkansans against COVID-19 in the following order:
- Phase 1-A: Health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, EMS, fire and law enforcement who serve as first responders and other high priority groups.
- Phase 1-B (current phase): People 70+ years old, teachers and school staff, child care and higher education workers. Later in Phase 1-B: food/agricultural workers, firefighters, police and correctional staff not in 1-A, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and essential government/community workers.
- Phase 1-C: People 65+ years old, people 16-64 years old with high risk medical conditions and workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing, finance, IT and communications, energy, media, public safety and public health workers.