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Little Rock Mayor Gets COVID Vaccination As Eligibility Expands

Whitney Campbell, pharmacist in charge at an Express Rx on Stagecoach Road in Little Rock, injects a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday into the arm of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
Michael Hibblen

“Be gentle,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. implored before a pharmacist injected him in the arm Wednesday with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. His visit to an Express Rx came two days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson expanded eligibility to all people in phase 1B of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Scott said about 900 city workers, including himself, are considered essential and are now eligible for a vaccine. “I hate shots,” he said, but wanted to set an example for others, including minorities who might be hesitant to be vaccinated.

“To take this vaccination is to protect our community, to ensure that we have a post-COVID-19 era, and that we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” Scott said.

Encouraging those who are eligible to get their shots is key, he said, in revitalizing the region’s economy, getting people traveling again and supporting local businesses. But Scott said it’s equally important that people continue taking basic precautions to avoid spreading the virus by wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands.

The mayor said he had no hesitation in getting vaccinated because he had taken time to research the data and science on all three of the available vaccines. Scott got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which first became available in Arkansas on Monday and only requires one dose. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each require two shots.

He acknowledged a distrust about vaccines remains high in minority communities.

“I think that hesitation is warranted, particularly Black Americans have a high distrust as it relates to science and research and how its been disposed upon the Black community,” Scott said.

He noted the history of the Tuskegee syphilis study, which was conducted between 1932 and 1972, with Black men unknowingly being infected while told they were getting free health care from the federal government. Scott also spoke about Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were, without her knowledge, the source of cell lines that are considered among the most important in medical research.

“So that’s the reason why the Black community has had that kind of distrust. But it’s not solely the Black community, it’s also with our brothers and sisters with the Latinx community and Asian community as well,” Scott said. “There’s been so much data and research done and we’ve got to continue to share that we need this as we want to focus on protecting our community, our residents and our loved ones.”

New clinics for people to get vaccinated are continuing to be planned, he said. Later in the week, Scott said a formal announcement will be made with CHI St. Vincent about a clinic to be held in the east side of Little Rock. On Wednesday, a walk-up clinic was held at the Rock Region METRO Travel Center downtown for those who were eligible but didn’t have appointments scheduled.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 25 deaths on Wednesday, with 11 confirmed to be from COVID-19, while the other 14 were probable deaths. There were also 317 new cases of people testing positive for the virus, while the number of active cases declined by 234 since Tuesday.

This story has been corrected to remove a reference to the Tuskegee Airmen, who were not involved in the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

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