Arkansas has opened up coronavirus vaccine eligibility to nearly a million more of its residents, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced this week.

Individuals in the 1C category of the state’s Covid-19 vaccination plan are now eligible for the vaccine.

The category includes:

Individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 with health conditions that increase their risk for severe Covid-19

Essential workers in energy, finance, food service, information and communications, legal, media, public health and human services, public safety, shelter and housing, transportation and logistics

Individuals living in high risk settings, including those who are incarcerated or living in group homes, congregate settings, or crowded housing and student housing such as dorms and Greek housing.

Those in Category 1A and 1B, remain eligible for the vaccine.

“I would remind everyone that just because we are opening it up to 1C category does not mean you are going to be able to get an appointment this week or perhaps even next week because there’s almost a million people in this category and we still have not completed 1B in all areas of the state,” Hutchinson said, pointing out that the supply is still limited. The state is receiving 84,000 or 85,000 doses a week.

The governor, at his weekly Covid-19 update on Tuesday, said he is increasing availability because President Biden and his administration has emphasized that they want everyone eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

“They are increasing the production and hope to have that supply increased in May,” Hutchinson said. “This has encouraged the states to accelerate their opening up of the eligibility criteria in order to get to that goal by May 1.”

Roughly 10 percent of the Arkansas population has been fully immunized, according to Arkansas Health Department numbers Hutchinson reported. Just over 265,000 have been partially immunized and nearly 304,000 have been fully immunized.

Vaccine Reluctance

Though the state is increasing vaccine eligibility, some Arkansans, particularly those in rural areas, are reluctant to get the vaccine.

“There is a lower acceptance rate for the vaccine in the rural areas of our state, which we have to overcome,” Hutchinson said.

Asked why rural residents are more reluctant to get the vaccine, Hutchinson said he doesn’t know all the reasons.

“But, whenever you see a lower case count in a community I think they do not see the same level of risk for themselves, the same level of urgency,” Hutchinson said.

He suggested that some are perhaps more hesitant because they live in an area where the population is less dense and it’s easier to isolate.

“So, it could be a combination of those factors that are somewhat logical but it should not be based, certainly, on anything other than the science of it and I would emphasize that wherever you are in the state, we travel, we go to ball games together, and if we’re going to get to a more normal life we need to have everyone get vaccinated,” Hutchinson said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Well, I think I’ll just wait awhile. I know it’s my turn, but I’ll wait awhile and I’ll get it after we see more people have experience with it.’ So, I think you’ll see the acceptance rate increase significantly over time.”

Arkansas Health Secretary Jose Romero emphasized the important of the vaccine.

“What is going to get us through this pandemic are the vaccines, more than anything else,” he said.

Romero said the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing death and hospitalization. “That is the most important thing that the citizens need to understand,” he said.

Currently, 55 percent of the state’s 65 and older population have received one dose, according to Romero.

“That is not enough to have herd immunity,” he said. “We need to have somewhere around 70 to 90 percent of our population immunized.”

Vaccine eligible Arkansans can make an appointment at a community pharmacy. Vaccine clinics and events may also be available in your area through hospitals, health care providers, or your worksite. Click here for a list of clinics. For those who work in education, the district, facility, or college/university should determine how many doses are needed, and then reach out to an ADH Local Health Unit or a community pharmacy to schedule a vaccination clinic.

Covid-19 Cases in Southeast Arkansas

Ashley County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,872
Confirmed Cases: 1,478
Probable Cases: 394

Total Active Cases: 18
Active Confirmed Cases: 10
Active Probable Cases: 8

Total Recovered Cases: 1,821
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,444
Recovered Probable Cases: 377

Total Deaths: 33
Confirmed Deaths: 24
Probable Deaths: 9

Bradley County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,334
Confirmed Cases: 981
Probable Cases: 353

Total Active Cases: 10
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 3

Total Recovered Cases: 1,293
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 958
Recovered Probable Cases: 335

Total Deaths: 31
Confirmed Deaths: 16
Probable Deaths: 15

Chicot County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,602
Confirmed Cases: 1,459
Probable Cases: 143

Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 4

Total Recovered Cases: 1,555
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,418
Recovered Probable Cases: 137

Total Deaths: 38
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 2

Cleveland County

Total Cumulative Cases: 937
Confirmed Cases: 590
Probable Cases: 347

Total Active Cases: 6
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 4

Total Recovered Cases: 906
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 568
Recovered Probable Cases: 338

Total Deaths: 25
Confirmed Deaths: 20
Probable Deaths: 5

Desha County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,350
Confirmed Cases: 1,095
Probable Cases: 255

Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 2

Total Recovered Cases: 1,318
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,069
Recovered Probable Cases: 249

Total Deaths: 23
Confirmed Deaths: 19
Probable Deaths: 4

Drew County

Total Cumulative Cases: 1,967
Confirmed Cases: 1,554
Probable Cases: 413

Total Active Cases: 10
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 1

Total Recovered Cases: 1,918
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,514
Recovered Probable Cases: 404

Total Deaths: 38
Confirmed Deaths: 31
Probable Deaths: 7

Lincoln County

Total Cumulative Cases: 3,171
Confirmed Cases: 2,813
Probable Cases: 358

Total Active Cases: 7
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 2

Total Recovered Cases: 3,117
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,775
Recovered Probable Cases: 342

Total Deaths: 47
Confirmed Deaths: 33
Probable Deaths: 14

Source: Arkansas Department of Health