Public Radio from UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

COVID vaccination clinics to be held Saturday throughout Arkansas for newly-eligible kids

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was shown to reporters at the Arkansas Department of Health on Dec. 14, 2020 just before the first doses were administered in the state.
Michael Hibblen
/
KUAR News
An adult dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was shown to reporters in December 2020 at the Arkansas Department of Health. A pediatric version has now been approved with doses to be administered at clinics around the state on Saturday.

With many parents eagerly awaiting an opportunity to get their kids vaccinated for COVID-19, the Arkansas Department of Health is planning to hold vaccination clinics throughout the state on Saturday. This follows the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention giving final approval Tuesday for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

While local health units have been offering the vaccine since Wednesday, this will be the largest coordinated effort so far. At least one clinic will be open in each of Arkansas’ 75 counties from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. A full list of clinics and additional details can be found here.

Department Epidemiologist Richard Taffner, based in Mountain Home, says so far demand for the pediatric vaccine has been high and he’s optimistic that many parents will bring their kids to be vaccinated Saturday.

“Well, we sure hope so,” Taffner said. “We’ve had a pretty good turnout so far.”

When the state began administering pediatric vaccinations on Wednesday, not all local health units had received shipments of the vaccine. By Thursday, Taffner said doses had been delivered to all locations.

The Department of Health initially received just over 38,000 doses of the vaccine, officials said. That was supplemented Thursday by the arrival of an additional 28,500 doses.

Taffner hopes that will be enough to meet initial demand.

“It really depends on how much interest we have over the weekend, but I’m confident that we’ll have enough vaccines to meet the needs of the communities as they show up to the Health Department.”

The local health units around the state will also be offering extended hours next week, remaining open until 6 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday. Appointments are not necessary on Saturday or next week and the vaccines are provided at no cost, though families with health insurance are asked to show insurance cards.

“They just need to bring their children to the health units and we will get the information that we need from them and we’ll get them vaccinated,” Taffner said.

He hopes adults who have not received a vaccine will also take advantage of the opportunity.

“If the parents want to get vaccinated while they bring their kids in, we’ll also have all of the other available vaccines,” Taffner said. “We just really want people to take advantage of the vaccine availability and come out and get it started now. If they start it now they can get it done before Christmas and that will greatly reduce exposure potential.”

Like the adult version, the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine requires a second shot after 21 days for a person to be fully immunized.

Drug stores around the state are now getting direct shipments of the vaccine for children, Taffner said, with some taking appointments, while others are also administering shots on a walk-in basis.

DAILY COVID-19 REPORT

On Thursday, the Department of Health said the number of people recovering from COVID-19 outpaced new cases, with the number of active cases declining by 17 people to 4,479. 17 deaths were also reported for a total of 8,452 since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations declined by 23, while the number of patients on ventilators dropped by nine.

On Twitter, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “Our case numbers are again lower than last week, and our active cases have declined once again. We continue to work to get vaccines for ages 5-11 available across the state. I urge Arkansans to choose to get the COVID vaccine."

Michael Hibblen is News Director of UA Little Rock Public Radio. A 34-year radio veteran, he oversees the KUAR News staff, plans coverage and edits stories while also reporting and anchoring newscasts.