Washington County, Once a COVID-19 Hotspot, Falls Short on Vaccinations

By Haley Hale
Arkansascovid.com

Despite being a hotspot for COVID-19, Washington County only has 8.76% of its population fully vaccinated as of March 8. Franklin County has 16.03% of its population vaccinated, making it the most vaccinated county in the state.

Arkansas Department of Health public information director Gavin Lesnick said that vaccinations are “allocated so that every county gets some of the supply.” Lesnick said he did not know if the severity of a COVID-19 outbreak in a county would affect the vaccine distribution decisions.

On Jan. 9, total cases in Washington County peaked at 2,465 total active cases. Cases have been steadily declining since that date. As a comparison, March 9 reported 296 active cases. 

The percent of the population vaccinated also contributes to vaccine allocations. “A county with an average vaccination rate would likely not get extra doses in a given week,” Lesnik said. 

The state also looks at the vaccine distribution by county demographics. If one county is behind in vaccinations for one group, they might decide to distribute more vaccine to make up for the shortfall.

John Luther, director of Washington County Emergency Management, said that the county is working very hard to get out more vaccines. Hospitals and pharmacies are doing a great job of getting the vaccines out as they get them, he said.

Dr. Huda Sharaf, medical director of the Pat Walker Health Center and member of the Fayetteville Board of Health, said that the introduction of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “would be a game changer” as its single dose vaccine would only add to existing supplies. 

Johnson & Johnson was granted emergency use authorization for their one dose COVID-19 vaccine. This would be the third vaccine available in the United States. It has proven to be 85% effective in preventing severe illness. Both vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna consist of two doses taken three weeks and one month apart respectively.

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The University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media operates this site as an independent source of news and as a community service for Arkansas residents. Students produce the content here under the supervision of Rob Wells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Journalism. The data presented here is collected at roughly the same time each day from the Arkansas Department of Health website.

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