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While cases are low, Arkansas Department of Health encourages people to get booster shots

Pulaski County Health Unit and other county health units will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations.
David Monteith
County health units, like this one in Pulaski County, will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations.

Arkansas medical experts are encouraging people to get booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines while case counts remain low. Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state’s chief medical officer, says the booster shots protect against the most common variant and subvariant in the state.

“That booster dose plays a very important role in broadening the type of antibodies that the body produces in response to the vaccine. And that breadth of antibodies works so much better against the omicron variant,” Dillaha said.

She says genetic sequencing of samples in the state show the BA.2 subvariant, also referred to as deltacron, is responsible for 83% of current cases, with the omicron variant accounting for the remainder. ADH reports no other new subvariants or variants have been detected in samples from the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considersthree doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines necessary, and recently approved a fourth booster shot of those vaccines for people over 50 and immunocompromised people over the age of 18. An additional shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficient in some situations, according to the CDC.

“So we’re strongly encouraging people to take advantage of this lull right now in the number of cases in the state to get fully vaccinated and boosted because it could be that we will see another surge in the future,” Dillaha said.

Dillaha said the number of locations to receive vaccinations is decreasing in the state.

“We are monitoring the situation around the state in terms of the availability of vaccines. It’s complicated by the fact that the federal government has run out of funding to pay vaccinators for administering the vaccines. For that reason, many of our previous vaccinators are no longer able to afford to give the vaccine, because they don’t have a way to pay for the staff,” She said.

The Arkansas Department of Health is still offering free vaccines through county health units, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

According to the ADH, just 562,640 Arkansans have received a third dose of a vaccine. The COVID-19 dashboard maintained by ADH does not provide data on the number of people receiving a fourth dose and still counts people who have received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna as fully vaccinated.

As of Monday, there were six more deaths, bringing the total death toll in the state to 11,354. Hospitalizations remained the same as Sunday at 47, which is the lowest number since March 29, 2020.

However, numbers are rising in the northeast part of the country, triggering concerns of another wave.

David Monteith worked as a reporter for KUAR News between 2015 and July 2022.