Governor’s COVID-19 briefing gave vaccine push; warned about variants

Local News

AR Gov.: 15,000 doses given in the last 24 hours

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Words that start with “V” were brought up Tuesday, April 27, at Governor Asa Hutchinson’s COVID-19 briefing — vaccines and variants.

VACCINATIONS

There were 15,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses given in the last 24 hours. Total immunized, partially or fully, is 1.8 million, per Hutchinson.

As of Monday, Arkansas had 358,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 288,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 70,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J/Janssen) vaccine, according to the briefing. 

The governor said supply is not the problem, the challenge in Arkansas is with vaccine hesitancy because the threat is seen as being down. “The urgency of getting a vaccine has been diminished,” he said.

Goals Gov. Hutchinson would like to see reached include making sure vaccines are accessible to the harder to reach population, and having a 60% [vaccine] rate versus the current 40%. “I’d like to see vaccines available at games, schools, … communities need to engage … to make the vaccine as accessible as possible,” he said.

Regarding the J&J vaccine, Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said 15 cases of clotting disorder with low platelets were identified and carefully studied. However, “the risk-benefit ratio opposed to the risk far outweighs the use of the [J&J/Janssen] vaccine … it is safe to use the vaccine.” This is the vaccine that was pulled out of circulation for 10 days because of clotting cases.

The White House told the governor that Arkansas will be getting the J&J/Janssen vaccines this week.

VARIANTS

Dr. Romero wants Arkansans to understand the importance of getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Our number of isolates (Aka, specimens) for variants has increased dramatically in the last week. Particularly in the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), we have had a three-fold increase in the number of isolates. And a total number of isolates in the state has more than doubled.”

He said, “this is only the tip of the iceberg.” He explained that is because a small minority is being sequenced for the number of people who are sick.

“It’s here, we expect to see more. The U.K. variant is associated with more mortality and morbidity,” said Dr. Romero.

In states where this is already a problem, more children are being hospitalized. “We need to bring this under control,” said Dr. Romero. “The more people who are unimmunized the more there is a chance of this virus to spread.”

WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 BRIEFING; RESPONSE TEAM/PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS

We thanked the governors for their leadership to date, which has helped us to deliver at least one shot to now more than 54 percent of all adults in the country.  We also outlined the path forward as we move into the next phase of our vaccination program, where everyone 16 and over is eligible to get vaccinated. 

Of particular interest on the call was a discussion on how to best help college students get themselves vaccinated.  This is a topic of keen interest to governors because many students who are getting the Moderna or Pfizer two-dose vaccine might need to get their second shot at the location where they reside during the summer — often in another state. 
 
We at the federal government strongly support the work of states to focus on helping students to at least begin the vaccination process during the remaining school year.

This week, nearly 30 million doses will go out across channels, with the vast majority going to states, Tribes, and territories. 
 
And we reminded governors that the federal government stands ready to help states put shots into arms as quickly as possible, and we continue to conduct one-on-one sessions with their teams each day throughout the week. 

WH Briefing

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