By Robert Stewart
As Arkansas marks the first anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic, the state is reporting slow but steady progress with vaccinating the public.
The state of Arkansas administered 16,434 doses of COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday to approach the mark of 800,000 total shots administered since December, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regionally, Arkansas is in the middle of the pack in doses administered as a percentage of the population.
Oklahoma leads the way in shots given per 100,000 people, checking in at 33,733. In a distant second sits Louisiana, just past 28,000. Arkansas, with 26,482, trails Missouri and Mississippi by less than 1,000 but leads Tennessee and Texas.
Nationally, Arkansas is underperforming. Only five states separate Arkansas from the bottom of doses administered per 100,000 people, even though it has received more doses per 100,000 than 24 states.
Danyelle McNeill, a public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Health, said the ADH is not sure why the state trails behind other states with similar populations.
“Vaccinators in Arkansas are doing an excellent job of getting doses into people’s arms within 72 hours of receiving doses,” McNeill said. “The recent inclement weather may have played a role. There may also be barriers to timely data reporting, so we are looking into that possibility.”
The CDC reports 17 percent of Arkansas residents have received at least one dose. Only 9.4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Despite the lagging pace, Arkansans have reason to hope. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced March 8 that vaccines will be made available to a larger portion of the population. Phase 1-B now specifies which workers are considered essential.
Based on the most recent daily increase, Arkansas is on pace to top 1 million doses administered by March 23. Twenty-nine states have already reached that threshold, and an additional five are on pace to do so before Arkansas.
Dr. Huda Sharaf, medical director at the University of Arkansas’ Pat Walker Health Center, encouraged anyone eligible to receive the vaccine to take it.