Vaccine eligibility in Arkansas is being expanded by order of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, starting Tuesday, Feb. 23.
He told reporters during a Tuesday afternoon briefing that Arkansans aged 65 and older will now be able to be vaccinated as part of Phase 1B of the vaccination effort. This drops the previous 1B age restriction from 70 and over to 65 and over.
As a result, an additional 115,000 Arkansans are expected to be able to be vaccinated now. State officials initially estimated that 400,000 individuals in Arkansas would be impacted during this phase.
Originally, individuals aged 65 to 69 were not scheduled to be eligible for vaccination until Phase 1C. This phase, according to state officials’ comments in January, is expected to begin in April 2021.
Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero noted that many Arkansans in the 65-69 age range have comorbid issues that could exacerbate COVID-19. This factor, he said, spurred the decision to expand the vaccine eligibility.
The state remains in Phase 1B for the vaccine rollout. According to the original framework of this phase, individuals 70 and older, as well as frontline workers, including teachers and school staff, food and agricultural workers, firefighters and police not included in Phase 1-A, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, child care workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and essential government workers are eligible during this phase.