Essential workers react to the expansion of phase 1B

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansans 65 and older are now able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after Governor Hutchinson announced the newest expansion to Phase 1B on Tuesday.

65 and older were originally part of Phase 1C, which isn’t scheduled to start until April.

While those in the newest group are thrilled at the addition, others initially listed in 1B feel they’ve been skipped over. 

Right now, Phase 1B of the Arkansas Department of Health Vaccine Plan includes education workers and those 65 and older, but essential priority workers are also listed in the plan and are still unable to book an appointment and get their first dose.

Many have grown frustrated with the process.

For the Little Rock Veterinary Clinic, the work never stops. Even during a pandemic, vets and vet techs still care for furry family friends – which is why Dr. Sandra Reynolds is so upset. 

“We’re in contact with the public every day,” Reynolds said, explaining the reason she feels vets need to be prioritized for the vaccine.

Veterinarians are listed under Phase 1B in the January version of the ADH Vaccine Plan, but Reynolds says she has heard nothing about when they’ll actually see the shot, if at all. 

“I would like to think that we would be considered, you know, essential workers,” Reynolds said. 

It’s a similar situation to Kroger department leader Misty Aldridge, who is also anxiously waiting for the vaccine. She says she was at a loss when the vaccine was extended to 65 and up, a group originally in Phase 1C. “We were all quite devastated,” she said. 

For UFCW 2008 President Steve Gelios, the decision is yet another blow to those on the frontlines, who also have to deal with a decrease in hazard pay and constant public contact.

“They were supposed to be one of the first ones in that 1B group to get vaccinated,” Gelios said, “because they are on the frontlines.”

He adds that while many can choose to stay inside, that’s not an option for our food and grocery workers. 

“These folks that work in these plants and stores and different businesses that we represent,” Gelios said, “they don’t have a choice.”

Now, all Aldridge can do is wait for her turn, and worry about the consequences of a delay.

“[We] go to work, put ourselves at risk, put our families at risk, put the public at risk until they can come up with a solution,” Aldridge said.

According to the Governor’s press conference Tuesday, the State hopes Phase 1B will be finished by the end of March. 

Read the full vaccination plan below:

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