LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Phase 1B of the State’s COVID-19 vaccination plan starts Monday, covering school staff, daycare workers, and those who are 70 and older, to name a few.
The new phase comes as the Arkansas Department of Health releases its new plan for the vaccine rollout – an update from the first draft in October.
The nearly 70-page document lays out everything from where Arkansans can get a vaccine to which groups are considered “priority,” but the speed of the rollout depends on how many doses are sent to Arkansas, and the state might not see an increase in shipments for another few weeks.
ADH says that some detailed plans will have to wait until the state receives a higher allocation of doses from Operation Warpspeed and the CDC.
“Our plans have adjusted to the situation in Arkansas,” Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with ADH said, “as well as to the allocations that we are receiving.”
The problem lies in how many doses Arkansas is sent per week. The state is getting around the same amount of doses that they did in the initial phases of vaccination, with an increase expected in the near future.
The question is when.
“Even though we are moving to this larger group,” Dillaha said about Phase 1B. “We are not yet receiving a larger amount of vaccine in Arkansas.”
Shipments only include a few vaccines at a time, and with this next phase including nearly 600,000 more eligible Arkansans, the wait could be long.
“That averages out to be less than 500 doses per county,” Dillaha said, noting that the updated plan is more detailed, and outlines how vaccination efforts would ramp up heading into Phase 1B and beyond. “We were able to be more specific in this plan as to how the processes would work.”
One change is the addition of Spike Teams, or vaccination events that could cover entire workplaces of essential workers, a new priority group in phases B and C.
“We would be able to take a team to the worksite, for example,” Dillaha explained, “and vaccinate employees there.”
With Phase 1C expected to come in April, and the vaccine not being widely available until this coming Summer, Dillaha asks that people remain patient, and not take up valuable appointment time in an effort to speed up the process.
“Please do not call and make appointments with more than one location,” she asked, saying that this sends a false demand to providers as they are requesting doses. The entire Vaccine Response plan document can be found at Healthy,Arkansas.gov.