‘We can’t just bring them all in.’ Governor says Arkansans with health conditions won’t be moved to Phase 1-B


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Some Arkansans are going to great lengths to get vaccinated against COVID-19. One woman with serious health conditions said she crossed state lines to get her first dose. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Tuesday that people in this category won’t be moved up to Phase 1-B, citing too-broad directions from the CDC.

Katie Burkes lives in Springdale, and she has a chronic inflammatory disorder called rheumatoid arthritis. She also has a heart condition that she said required a trip to the Mayo Clinic, and she also has asthma.

“So, I have a lot of things going on,” Burkes said.

Burkes said her doctor wrote a note saying she needs a COVID-19 vaccine immediately, but attempts to follow those directions in Arkansas proved futile.

“I was able to get on the Walmart website and actually get an appointment, but when I showed up, I wasn’t in the eligibility group,” Burkes said. “They turned me away.”

Burkes’ husband has a CDIB given to those with Native American blood, so they qualified to get the Pfizer vaccines in a Choctaw Nation event in Poteau, Okla., last weekend. She said people with health problems will continue going across state lines until the state adopts provisions seen in surrounding states.

In Louisiana, people 55-64 with one or more CDC-defined condition are eligible.

“I get it that vaccines were limited to begin with,” Burkes said. “The special needs community and disability community are really being left out.”

Tuesday, KNWA/Fox24 asked Hutchinson whether he’s considered moving people with serious health issues to 1-B.

“At the outset, we’ve talked about it a lot, and the CDC guidelines [are] so broad in the underlying conditions that it would be well over a million people,” Hutchinson said. “We can’t just bring them all in and have those vaccinated early. We believe when we lowered it to 65, we’ll be catching those most vulnerable with underlying conditions.”

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