Next vaccine phase begins early

As Arkansas continues its roll out of vaccines, the state and local pharmacies are preparing for the first batch of Phase 1-b residents to be vaccinated. During his weekly COVID-19 update, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced higher education and Kindergarten through twelfth grade educators, along with licensed daycare providers and Arkansans over 70 will begin to receive their vaccinations on Monday, Jan. 18. City Drug and Prescription Pad pharmacy will be the ones administering the vaccine to the community.

For many, the pharmacies, working together to coordinate will come to campuses to administer the vaccine. For those over 70, they can call City Drug, 201 E. Gaines Street, at (870) 367-5301 or Prescription Pad Pharmacy, 539, U.S. Highway 425, at (870) 367-4227 to get on a waiting list or make an appointment. For those who have already contacted the pharmacies and been placed on a list, there is no need to call to make an appointment, the pharmacies will contact you to schedule at time to get the vaccine.

“In a pandemic, the competition is the virus,” said Pharmacist Brian Smith, owner of The Prescription Pad who received an additional 200 doses yesterday and administered 37. “It doesn’t matter who gives the vaccine, if it will save a life.”

Educators in the state welcomed the news.

“The updated timeline for school employee vaccinations is welcome news for the educators serving on the frontlines of this public health crisis,” stated Carol Fleming, Arkansas Educators Association president. 

“Providing quality learning opportunities for Arkansas’ students while also creating as safe an environment as possible, has placed our educators in an extremely demanding situation. The return to in-person education has resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen educators and, unfortunately, continues to put children and families at risk. Vaccinations will begin to help educators feel more comfortable as they continue working to provide the face-to-face connection for which there is no replacement,” she continued. 

“This updated timeline brings an opportunity to return to an in-person education where every student can thrive – but only if vaccination campaigns are done safely and equitably,” she said. We urge state agencies to use consistent and transparent communications on the benefits and safety of vaccines. 

“Until the vaccine effort begins to curb the spread of this virus, it is vital that we all continue to practice social distancing, masking, and hand washing,” she reminded Arkansans. “We urge districts to extend emergency leave for educators due to COVID-19 infection or for those forced into quarantine after potential exposure. Districts should act quickly to ensure educators are not forced to use their sick leave to prevent the spread of this dangerous virus.”  

 

In addition to announcing that some in the 1-b group would receive vaccines sooner than normal, Hutchinson also announced the appointment of Colonel Robert Ator, a member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, to coordinate Arkansas’ vaccine Distribution program.

As program manager for the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, Colonel Robert Ator will serve as project manager for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. He will manage the logistics related to vaccine distribution and serve as liaison to other state agencies to assist with sharing information and data collection.

Colonel Ator, a retired Air Force Wing Commander, serves as the director of Military Affairs in the Arkansas Department of Commerce. His military logistics and supply-chain experience uniquely equip him for this task, Governor Hutchinson said today in announcing the appointment.

“Colonel Ator is the right person for this urgent mission,” Governor Hutchinson said. “As wing commander, he oversaw more than a thousand airmen along with planes and equipment worth more than $2 billion. C-130 cargo planes often are involved in humanitarian missions, and there is no more pressing humanitarian need than getting this vaccine to Arkansas citizens.”

During Colonel Ator’s command, the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base was the largest C-130 wing in the Air National Guard. They provided aircrew combat airlift training for the US military services and foreign allies. The wing also prepared airmen for combat deployment and for state duty following disasters or during domestic emergencies, such as the current pandemic.  

Colonel Ator and his wife, Michelle, live in Little Rock. Their son is a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, and their daughter is a freshman at the University of Colorado.

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