First batch of vaccines will go to relatively-small number of healthcare workers


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have made it to Arkansas, and a relatively-small number of healthcare workers are the first to receive it.

Dr. Marti Sharkey is Fayetteville’s Public Health Officer, and she’s played a key role in preparing for the arrival of the vaccine in Northwest Arkansas.

“Today is so exciting,” Sharkey said Monday. “The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine landed earlier this morning in Little Rock.”

The first few shipments contain around 975 doses each, and they’ll vaccinate about 20% of Northwest Arkansas’ frontline healthcare workers.

“It is going to be the ER doctors, ICU doctors, ER nurses and ICU nurses who’re going to be the first off,” Sharkey said.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha is an epidemiologist for the Arkansas Dept. of Health, and said the state hopes more vaccines start cropping up in the near future.

“The more vaccines that are authorized, the more doses we’ll have available in Arkansas,” Dillaha said.

The timeline’s becoming a little clearer now, Dillaha said, including when the average member of the general public will be able to get vaccinated.

“It will take several weeks and even some months before we’re able to do that,” Dillaha said.

This’ll depend on Arkansas having enough supply to do so. With the Moderna vaccine expected to get the green light from the FDA soon, Sharkey said some of the state’s most vulnerable will get that vaccine: those who are in nursing homes.

“That’s where we’re seeing such a high rate of morbidity and mortality,” Sharkey said.

When vaccinations do become readily available, Sharkey said it’ll take a lot of people getting vaccinated to really kick it into gear.

“Before we get to that critical herd immunity number, we’re going see our caseloads start to decline,” Sharkey said. “We’ll see improvement.”

The first doses of the vaccine ignited new hope for overcoming the pandemic in those who’ve fought on the front lines. Still, Sharkey said it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

“We’re going to have a rough time of it, so I wish I was celebrating a little bit more than I am,” Sharkey said.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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