High-risk Arkansans over the age of 70 struggle to get COVID-19 vaccines

KNWA

"[The pharmacy] said I was 5,000th on the list."

ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — High-risk Arkansans over the age of 70 who live independently are facing many barriers in trying to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

KNWA/FOX 24 spoke to two Northwest, Arkansas women who share the same struggles.

A little more than a month ago, KNWA/FOX 24 interviewed 97 year old Ann Karcher of Rogers.

She was anxiously awaiting her turn for the COVID-19 vaccine and though she’s finally able to get it, she’s still waiting.

I’m right here ready and waiting.

ANN KARCHER, 97-YEAR-OLD ROGERS WOMAN 
MARY J ALLEN

She’s not alone.

Mary J Allen is 86 years old and is also from Rogers.

“I really want to get it,” Allen said. “I’m scared, I’ve been isolated since March.”

Both women live independently in an apartment by themselves.

ANN KARCHER & DAUGHTER ALICE ANN MOORE

Their daughters have stepped in to try and help them get their names on the vaccination lists.

“I’m not that tech-savvy at all,” Karcher said. “If I didn’t have her to do this for me I would be lost.”

They don’t tell ya how to do it. If it wasn’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t be on any of them. 

MARY J ALLEN, 86-YEAR-OLD ROGERS WOMAN 

Neither of them have had any luck, though.

“I called on the 13th of January and [the pharmacy] said I was 5,000th on the list,” Allen said.

Now the women are thinking about taking matters into their own hands.

Even if that means showing up and waiting in line at a vaccination event.

According to Allen’s daughter, Julie Merrick, her mother said she was planning on going to Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville at 6 a.m. on February 15 to stand in line to try and get her first COVID-19 vaccine.

“That just raised a whole lot of red flags with me because she’s 86 and half years old. She’s got a number of comorbidities,” Merrick said.

Merrick said her mother recently called her and asked about thermal heat because she was thinking about using that as a way to stay warm while standing in the dark and cold.

You can’t have 86 year old people out there at 6 o’clock in the morning standing in line for a vaccine, surely there’s a better way to vaccinate people instead of a first come first serve.

JULIE MERRICK, MARY J ALLEN’S DAUGHTER

KNWA/FOX 24 reached out to Northwest Health about this.

A spokeswoman said:

“At this time, Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville has very limited first dose vaccines available as the vaccination supply is limited in our region. Based on that supply, we are unable to make any decisions on when we can do a first dose clinic. We are hopeful we can start giving first dose vaccines the week of Feb. 15, but can’t currently commit because of the limited weekly vaccine supply allocation to Benton County which isn’t sufficient to allow for a large vaccination event.

In addition, we are blessed to have incredible partners in our region that are committed to helping get the vaccine out as expeditiously as possible. We are currently working with the local pharmacies, Mayor Orman and her team, Benton County, and our local fire departments to plan events and administer vaccines as effectively and expeditiously as possible.  These are preliminary talks and because of limited vaccine supply, scheduling would only be a week at a time.”

Northwest Health told KNWA/FOX 24 the community can check on the availability of vaccines by checking updates on Northwest Health’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NWHealthAR.

Both women and their daughters said they will continue to try and do whatever it takes to get those COVID-19 vaccines into their arms.

I sit here with my phone begging for it to ring.

ANN KARCHER, 97-YEAR-OLD ROGERS WOMAN 

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

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