Despite being eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, some Arkansans have experienced delays in receiving their doses because of scheduling and supply issues.
Most Arkansas residents working in education, and all Arkansans 70 and older, became eligible to receive the vaccine as part of phase 1-B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan beginning Jan. 18. The eligibility requirements were expanded to include those 65 and older Feb. 23, and employees working in food manufacturing on Tuesday. As supply increases, the number of groups eligible to receive the vaccine under Phase 1-B will expand, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Kathy Launder, nursing supervisor for the Springdale school district, worked with Community Pharmacy of Springdale to organize vaccination clinics at Springdale High School, the Don Tyson School of Innovation and Har-ber High School beginning in January. But the pharmacy did not initially receive the full number of doses that health officials had allocated it, and the third clinic had to be rescheduled as two smaller, later clinics, she said.
Breanna De Leeuw, a UA junior who works as a substitute teacher in the Springdale school district, said she was registered for the clinic at Har-Ber High School but had to search for another place to get vaccinated after the clinic was canceled.
“We were told that (the clinic) was canceled because (the pharmacy) only received two-thirds of their vaccine,” De Leeuw said. “We were told to (wait and) keep our ears open for any more days that might come up.”
After being notified of further vaccination opportunities by the school district, De Leeuw was able to receive her vaccine at the Jones Center on Feb. 25, administered by Northwest Medical Center staff. However, she knows other teachers who have still been unable to receive the vaccine, she said.
Launder said there is no set timeline for when all school district staff will be vaccinated, but 1,700 employees had received their vaccine by Tuesday.
A total of 1,200,470 vaccine doses had been allocated to or received by Arkansas health care providers by March 5, according to the ADH. Out of the allocated doses, 668,779 had been administered to patients by the same date.
Kay Taverner, 72, a Dover resident, started looking for a place to get vaccinated in late January, but she was told by several of her local pharmacies that vaccination appointments were booked for several weeks because of limited supply, she said.
Taverner was able to get on a waiting list the second week of February, but checked her status on the list March 3 and was told she would have to wait another four weeks for an appointment. After calling around to pharmacies further from her home, Taverner was finally able to secure an appointment at a Walmart pharmacy for next week.
Taverner is looking forward to being able to visit with family members once she is fully vaccinated, she said.
“Getting the vaccine means I can get out of this house and see people,” Taverner said. “All of (my husband’s) siblings are between 70 and 80, and we haven’t visited with them because of social distancing. If they can get (the vaccine) and we can get (the vaccine), then we’d feel more comfortable actually visiting with them.”
Olivia Harrison, a UA resident assistant, experienced similar scheduling issues after she became eligible to receive the vaccine Jan. 14. Harrison said she spent several hours calling health providers to find an appointment and verify her eligibility. She had to rearrange her school schedule when she secured first- and second-dose appointments at Walgreens on Jan. 30 and Feb. 24, but it was worth it to receive the COVID vaccine, she said.
“I would suggest just trying to get in wherever you can,” Harrison said. “Any opportunity you get to get the vaccine is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.”
Despite the delays in receiving her vaccine, De Leeuw is thankful she was able to get the vaccine this early in the process, she said. De Leeuw wants to help guide her peers through the process and can describe the side effects she experienced, so they are better prepared.
“Getting vaccinated is a big step in the right direction for our community to get back to safe interaction,” De Leeuw said. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to be vaccinated as a young person, because I can be a sounding board for students as they become eligible to get the vaccine.”