Currently, those in Ashley County who want a COVID-19 vaccine who don’t work for the school system only have one place to go.
“They need to call Gammell’s Pharmacy and get on the waiting list,” said Ashley County Health Units Administrator Tammy Cook.
“They are the only ones in the county who are providing it.”
That may soon change as the state’s allocation of the vaccines increases from federal sources. Cook said the health units may have the vaccines in hand — and thus in residents’ arms — soon.
“They told us that hopefully within a couple of weeks that we should get the vaccines,” Cook said. “We have been getting our forms and papers ready, and getting things ready.”
The availability may increase locally for another reason. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Feb. 2 that as a federally-approved provider for the COVID vaccine, Walmart pharmacies in the state will receive approximately 10,000 doses beginning Feb. 11.
Those doses will be distributed across 60 stores in Arkansas, he said, though he did not specify how stores would be chosen for distribution.
Along with the Walmart announcement, Hutchinson said he learned Tuesday that the state would receive an additional five percent increase to the vaccine supply in coming weeks.
“We have been assured that supply chain will be good for three weeks for planning purposes,” Hutchinson said. “That is very helpful as we plan how we can allocate those vaccines in a fair way.”
State Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero also said Tuesday that a third vaccine — developed by Johnson and Johnson — would likely soon be approved. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already on the market, the Johnson and Johnson product only requires one shot, he said.
As of Feb. 2, approximately 318,400 people in Arkansas had received a vaccine.
Rolling into the second month of the vaccine program, the state is seeing some progress against the virus. Tuesday saw 16,331 active cases of the virus reported and 869 people hospitalized in connection with COVID.
While those numbers are still significant, Hutchinson pointed out that the number of hospitalizations in the state had not been that low since November.
The number of active cases recorded in Ashley County also declined over the last week, to 90, though the number of deaths associated with the virus also increased to 27.
Hutchinson said the number of deaths the state has seen — 4,939 as of Tuesday — is “a constant reminder that we all have responsibilities.”
The responsibilities he alluded to include what state officials have dubbed “the three W’s” — wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your personal distance.
Romero likewise emphasized those responsibilities as key to keeping the trend of cases continuing downward.
“I want to remind everyone that even though we are making improvements, it is not the time to back off of the three things we think are most important for physical mitigation,” he said.
“That is what is going to bring this under control and bring down the variants.”
If variant strains of COVID-19 make it into the area, they will take control and become the dominant strain, Romero said.
And that is why people need to get vaccinated while still practicing the three W’s, he said.
“We are only going to be able to get past this pandemic if we have enough immunity,” Romero said.
Approximately 26.4 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19.