People who are older than 70 and school employees will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting next week.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson made the announcement Tuesday, saying that starting Jan. 18 some members of the cohort designated for vaccine phase 1B will be able to get the vaccine.

In addition to older people and K-12 teachers and staff, workers at day cares and institutions of higher education will be eligible for the vaccine.

“We want to continue to increase (vaccinations) as fast as we can, getting those doses to Arkansans, and continue to manage the limited supply we are getting,” Hutchinson said.

Arkansas receives approximately 50,000 doses of vaccine a week, he said.

“We are trying to set the stage for increasing those doses and increasing as quickly as possible,” Hutchinson said. “This is a county-by-county approach.”

School districts will drive the administration of vaccines to their employees, the governor said.

“So if you are a teacher, check with your district to find out how it will be provided,” he said before noting that the state has approximately 132,000 people working in the education system.

“That is a lot for our pharmacies to handle,” Hutchinson said. “We know some will wait, and it is going to take some time to get through those, but we will see.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said that a third vaccine is approaching approval in the United States and that the amount of vaccines available will increase in the near future.

“The goal is to minimize adverse events and maximize the use of each vaccine,” Romero said.

Those who have previously been eligible to receive the vaccine have included health care workers and first responders.

Vaccines currently available include those developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

While information is sometimes delayed and some cases are not reported, as of Tuesday afternoon Ashley County had 124 reported active cases of COVID-19, the sometimes deadly viral infection that has caused massive disruptions across the world over the past year. The county has recorded 23 deaths.

Statewide, the number of active cases was reported at 25,702 Tuesday evening, with 4,121 recorded deaths since March.

National, approximately 379,000 people’s deaths in the United States have been connected with COVID since the outbreak began in early 2020.

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