LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Gov. Asa Hutchinson said state health officials are finalizing preparations for children in Arkansas to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as the CDC gives final approval.
During his weekly media briefing, Hutchinson noted that while there are no mandates in place for children to take the vaccine, he and the Arkansas Department of Health are actively encouraging parents to get children vaccinated.
Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said that the pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe for children while adding that pediatric vaccinations will be closely monitored as they start to roll out.
Hutchinson noted that as soon as the final federal approval is in place, Arkansas parents will be able to contact the ADH Local Health Units in every county of the state to start scheduling appointments.
The initial pediatric vaccine doses will be given out through the LHUs and Vaccines for Children providers, the governor said, noting that parents should call ahead to make sure their provider is part of the initial pediatric vaccine rollout.
Romero said that Arkansas is initially receiving 110,000 pediatric doses of the vaccine, noting that there are around 271,000 children in the state between the ages of 5 and 11 who would be eligible for these doses.
Hutchinson noted that the steady but slowing decline of COVID-19 cases was continuing in the state, with an uptick of 70 active cases reported Tuesday, moving the current active count to 4,490. There were 641 total new cases, taking the pandemic total to 513,993.
The state also added 28 deaths to the pandemic count, which now sits at 8,412.
The number of patients hospitalized from the virus dipped by six to 325, with the number of patients on ventilators falling by one to 88.
The governor noted that the state had passed a milestone with the number of Arkansans fully immunized against COVID-19 now at 1,400,779, with another 287,447 residents having partial immunity. There were 10,327 vaccinations given in the state in the past day.
BROADBAND EXPANSION CONTINUES IN STATE
Hutchinson started his briefing by discussing the completion of a $3.7 million broadband expansion effort in the towns of Earle and Parkin in eastern Arkansas.
The project was part of the Arkansas Rural Connect program, which has provided nearly $280 million towards providing high-speed broadband to over 200,000 Arkansans.
The expansion will provide service to more than 2,000 homes, the governor said, adding that as part of the build Comcast was giving 500 laptops to local schools.
Hutchinson announced that he is heading overseas for an economic development trip to Israel this weekend. The governor said the focus of the summit there will be smart mobility operations.
He also said he would be speaking with officials there about developments in aero defense, a major industry for Arkansas.
The governor announced that the state revenue report shows that Arkansas is current $15.8 million above the revised forecast.
He also said there was not a firm date on a special session to address a tax reduction plan as of yet, noting that while a framework for the bill, the legislative language was still being finalized. Hutchinson also said he wanted to make sure support for the measure was solidified before calling lawmakers back to the State Capitol.