COVID-19 VACCINATION PLAN: Arkansas compared to other states

KNWA

It's a question many have been asking, "With limited vaccines provided to each state, how do their rollout plans differ?"

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — KNWA/FOX 24 spoke to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) to break down each state’s vaccination plan and explain the shared struggle each faces.

Our focus is 65+ and not to be premature and bring another group on board that all of a sudden will start competing with this group to get vaccinated that may be more comfortable with the technology.

KEITH REED, OKLAHOMA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 

We don’t really have any regrets right now. I think that even if we had kept it at 75, we would still not be having enough vaccine for that group.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

Each state gets to make its own vaccination plan.

According to Arkansas, it’s following CDC guidelines closely with a few changes — prioritizing those 70 and older and school staff.

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

“Right now, we’re doing a really good job of getting the vaccine into the arms of people,” Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) said.

Oklahoma is doing what it feels is best — focusing on those 65 and older.

We just need to stay focused on this group and continue every single week to have more and more opportunities for them to get vaccinated.

KEITH REED, OKLAHOMA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 
OKLAHOMA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

“We tried to build the plan based on the strengths of Oklahoma and what we’ve done before and with those lessons learned, but we’ve also been very eager to make adjustments as we go,” Keith Reed with the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) said.

Each state has a different approach, but they both share the same struggles.

There are challenges from storage to shipment to supplies… I mean you go in a direction and there is a significant challenge there to face.

KEITH REED, OKLAHOMA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 

The states also share the same goal.

“We would like to be able to do more,” Dr. Dillaha said. “We’re waiting for more vaccines.”

Additional information on Arkansas’ plan compared to Oklahoma’s:

  • Why this approach? For example, looking at Oklahoma’s plan some key differences: Phase 2 has adults 65 and older as well as adults of any age with comorbidities. Oklahoma also has education staff in Phase 3, but Arkansas has bumped them up to Phase B(2). My question is why this approach? How did the state come up with its vaccination plan? What data was used to come up with Arkansas’ vaccination plan?

Arkansas’ vaccination plan is largely based on the recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which are available here. The priority groups were considered based both on their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the likelihood of serious complications, as well as the size of each population. This data is laid out in the vaccination plan we released earlier this month. We are also making sure that vaccine supply goes to every county to ensure that the distribution is equitable for people in all parts of the state.

We have made some adaptations to the ACIP recommendations for Arkansas, including lowering the age threshold in 1-B to people 70 and older instead of those who are 75 and older. We know that people’s immune systems wane as they get older, which increases the likelihood that they will have complications from COVID-19, so we felt it was important to broaden this group in our state. However, we are limited in how much we can further expand these priority groups because we are still receiving a limited supply of vaccine each week. We are hopeful that these allocations will increase, but we cannot add additional groups until we have more vaccine to work with.

  • Does Arkansas look at other state’s vaccination plans, such as Oklahoma, on how their vaccination process is going? If so, is Arkansas looking into adopting any of Oklahoma’s process or any other state(s)? 

We are always looking to optimize our strategies and do consider other approaches and whether they would work in Arkansas. However, we are following the ACIP recommendations and are not planning any significant changes to our existing approach at this time.

  • Is Arkansas confident with how its vaccination plan is going compared to other states? Does the ADH think this is the best possible plan for the state of Arkansas? 

Yes. We are learning and improving as we go. And while we wish we had more supply to provide additional vaccinations, we are pleased with how our efforts are going. The New York Times tracks states based on a number of metrics, including per-capita vaccinations based on first and second doses and the percent of vaccination that has been used. While these rankings are fluid, we compare favorably with other states and U.S. territories and expect our numbers to improve further this week as we reallocate surplus long-term care doses into other areas.

  • What does the ADH say to Arkansans who feel this isn’t the best vaccination plan?

This vaccine plan largely reflects the CDC’s ACIP recommendations, prioritizes Arkansans who have a significant risk of exposure to or complications from COVID-19, and distributes doses through a network of providers located in all 75 counties. We believe this is the best plan, though we understand that Arkansans want to be vaccinated at a quicker pace. We share that goal, but it’s important to distinguish that that is a reflection of the limited vaccine supply coming into the state at this time and not the result of the vaccination plan, which is actually working well for Arkansas, given the small number of doses we are receiving.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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