Former Air Force commander to lead state COVID-19 vaccination program, will focus on increasing supply, efficiency

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson has appointed a retired Air Force Wing Commander to head up the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution program.

Col. Robert Ator has only been on this job for just five days.

He says his biggest focus is getting more supply of doses into the state and trying to find creative ways to do that. He’s also working on systems to make the rollout more efficient.

Ator said the biggest frustration with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout all boils down to supply.

It’s been almost a month since the first doses arrived in the state. Since then, the state’s supply hasn’t changed.

“I’m trying to get creative with what other stream can I use to get more vaccine into the state?,” Ator said.

Ator is trying to get vaccines from the federal allotment, along with the normal state allotment.

“We expect sometime in the next couple weeks that we’re going to see a rather large rise in supply coming into the state,” Ator said.

The exact number, though, is unknown.

Ator said the faster the state can put a vaccine in an arm, the faster the CDC will send the state more.

Ator said to speed up that process, the best thing Arkansans can do is get on the wait list with their local provider or pharmacy.  

“What that’s going to allow us to do is to be more efficient, so that when we get supply in the state, we can get it done and get it done quickly,” Ator said.

But Ator advises only signing up on one waiting list. Otherwise, it confuses the system and could waste vaccines or prevent someone else from getting theirs.

Ator said we can expect governor Hutchinson to release the exact details of the official state COVID-19 vaccination plan very soon.

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