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Governor asks vaccine providers to extend hours

by Tyler Wann | February 20, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
Cars wait in line Tuesday, Feb. 2,lat to enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Garland County Fairgrounds. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking pharmacies, hospitals, and other providers in the coronavirus vaccine program to schedule extra hours this weekend to compensate for time lost due to the winter weather, according to a news release.

"It is critical to get our vaccines out as quickly as possible, and we have to catch up on the missed appointments and slow vaccine distribution over the last week," Hutchinson said in the release.

"We need to move to other categories of 1-B, and the sooner we get more of our 70-plus vaccinated then the sooner we will be able to add more Arkansans to the eligible list. If you are a pharmacy with available vaccines, then I am asking you to schedule as many appointments as possible this weekend. If you are in an eligible category, then please make your appointment," he said.

"Anything that can be done to speed up getting more people vaccinated is very admirable and I'm 100% behind that," Garland County Health Officer Dr. Gene Shelby said.

Shelby noted he is expecting the vaccine to be available, and is encouraging anyone who was meant to be vaccinated this previous week, but couldn't, to get their vaccine, as well.

"You can't fight Mother Nature, but we kinda do the best we can with the circumstances as they are," he said. "If you get the chance to get the vaccine, do it."

Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health Dr. Jose Romero said in the release the vaccines are effective against the virus.

"The faster we can all get vaccinated, the faster we can protect our population and hold off the variant strains that are circulating around the world and in the U.S. Please join us in making up your appointment this weekend if you had to delay it because of the weather," he said.

Arkansas Pharmacists Association CEO John Vinson said in the release that they agree with the governor's request and are going to continue to assist in the push to get the state to more eligible Phase 1-B groups in the "near future."

"Through survey data, our network of community pharmacies are reporting to the Arkansas Pharmacists Association that they have adequate capacity to double or triple their appointment slots over the next two weeks to reschedule appointments from this week, to schedule new appointments for the future and to respond to the increase in the vaccine supply for Arkansas," he said.

More information on vaccination locations can be found at https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-map-of-1-a-pharmacy-locations.

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