Vaccine demand in Arkansas continues to decrease

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Dr. Dillaha said the state can't afford to have people missing out on the vaccine, especially with Arkansas reporting almost 90 variants of concern.

NORTHWEST, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Natural State has put a pause on vaccine orders due to a lack of demand, but health experts say vaccination rates need to go up if Arkansas wants to win against the fast-spreading variants.

For the first time since COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Arkansas, the state is suspending its weekly order due to a dramatic drop in demand.

There’s no supply issue, no scheduling issue. It’s just a matter of coming and getting it at this point.

JULIE STEWART, PHARMACIST, MEDICAL ARTS PHARMACY

For Julie Stewart with Medical Arts Pharmacy, the dip in demand has made the pharmacy scale back its hours.

“We’re just doing it by walk-ins at this point,” she said.

Stewart said right now, there is no reason someone who wants a vaccine shouldn’t be able to get one — even if that means wasting doses.

Low demand for vaccines means a higher tolerance for wasted doses.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST, ADH

The Pfizer vaccine can only be open for six hours before it can’t be used anymore.

“Our goal is to put as many shots in arms as possible and if that means we have to waste a couple of doses from a vial then we will just have to do that,” Stewart said.

This is exactly what State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) wants pharmacies to do.

We’re encouraging vaccination providers to give preference to those people who want to get vaccinated and to not worry so much about wasting a dose since we have plenty of vaccines now in the state. 

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST, ADH

Dr. Dillaha said the state can’t afford to have people missing out on the vaccine due to fear of wasting a dose, especially with Arkansas reporting almost 90 variants of concern.

“Right now we can just assume that [variants are] everywhere,” she said.

With vaccine demand on a downward trend, Dr. Dillaha said the fight against vaccines and variants could be an uphill battle.

“If we are going to protect ourselves from the variants, then we will need vaccination rates that are much higher than they are right now,” she said.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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