LITTLE ROCK, Ark – With the new authorization for children 5 years old to as young as 6 months to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the Arkansas Department of Health is rolling out its plan to distribute the vaccine across the state.

The youth vaccine doses began arriving in the state June 20, according to ADH medical director of immunizations Dr. Joel Tumlison, who added more doses are due to arrive June 21 and 22.

The vaccines are “getting here faster than we thought it might,” Tumlison said during a news conference June 21.

The department is distributing the vaccine through a system of nine hubs around the state, which then send the doses to ADH locations, physicians or providers who request vaccines.

There have been 13 shipments received by the hubs totaling about 15,000 doses, with an additional 3,000 – 4,000 doses expected June 21 and five additional shipments later.

Tumlison said Arkansas families can expect ready access to the children’s vaccine by June 29.

The children’s vaccine is given on a slightly different schedule than the adult vaccine, using either the Pfizer three-shot vaccination or Moderna two-shot vaccination schedule. In either case the shots are space further apart, four to eight weeks, or even “seven to eight weeks with certain groups,” Tumlison said.

The change in schedule was in response to some reports earlier in the vaccination history as some young men in the 17-24 age range had issues with myocarditis or pericarditis after being vaccinated.

Tumlison said he expected Moderna will add a third “booster” dose to its regimen.

“It’s very common for childhood vaccinations to require a three-dose series,” he said.

Tumlison still recommends vaccination, pointing out that children have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.

“We don’t want children to get sick,” Tumlison said, adding that the best way to prevent a COVID-19 infection is with the vaccination and that children continue to be vaccinated for disease, which in some cases are “fairly rare.”

The vaccine was tested with the latest, omicron, variant of COVID-19. Sub-variants of omicron are in that state “right now,” Tumlison said, and we can expect updated boosters in the autumn as new variants arrive.

Ultimately, the decision to vaccinate, and which vaccine to use, is something parents should bring up with their family’s health care provider, the doctor said.

Those without a regular healthcare provider may contact their local department of health unit for vaccination.

COVID-19 has been on the rise in the state, with 800-900 new cases per day during the week of June 13. June 20 week is expected to see that rise to 1,000 cases per day, Tumlison said.

Clinical Considerations: Myocarditis after mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC

Clinical considerations for myocarditis and pericarditis after receipt of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines among adolescents and young adults.