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What more COVID-19 vaccine doses in Arkansas could mean for distribution

We've talked about it for a week now— how the COVID-19 vaccine supply just wasn't meeting the demand in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — We've talked about it for a week now— how the COVID-19 vaccine supply just wasn't meeting the demand in Arkansas. 

Now, there's a glimmer of hope with the Biden Administration announcing more vaccines are on their way. 

In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the number of vaccines given to our state by the federal government will increase next week by 16 percent.

An increase that John Vinson, the CEO of Arkansas Pharmacists Association, said is bringing a silver lining to many. 

"Getting down to the individual patient level, a lot of tears are being shed right now because of that hope," he said.

Vinson was in high spirits after hearing the news, a bit of change from the week before when the state wasn't receiving the number of vaccines that were expected for educators and Arkansans over the age of 70.

"We've been concerned that it might take until April, maybe this will mean we'll finish this group closer to the first of March," he said.

The 16% increase given to the state is all in Moderna vaccines which means it'll be easier to store and distribute in smaller rural communities. 

According to Vinson, the over 5,000 extra doses will begin arriving in Arkansas as early as Monday.

"We are getting to a point where we can plan two to three weeks out, rather than just find out on Friday and only have a week [or] just a few days notice," he said.

Vinson said that time to plan will allow pharmacies to meet their demand and schedule appointments more in advance.

"In the coming weeks, we'll be figuring out where our problem areas are, where our challenges are and where we need to add more providers, including more pharmacies," he said.

Like many providers, Stacy Petty who's a nurse practitioner at UAMS, said they are eager and ready for those extra doses.

"As soon as we start receiving more vaccinations, we have the framework in place to be able to increase those patients who can get vaccinated," she said.

A framework that Petty said involves a mobile unit similar to the ones they use to distribute COVID-19 tests, that will go around Arkansas and give out vaccines to areas with little access.

She said right now UAMS is vaccinating close to 800 patients a day and are hopeful that with more doses, they can bring that number up to 1,000 in the coming weeks.

"Let's all work together so that we can get vaccinated and be safe do all of that stuff that we miss about our life," Petty said.

The UAMS COVID Vaccine Clinic is open seven days a week and you are only eligible, right now, if you are 70 and older or an Arkansas educator.