The pitiful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the states (Arkansas is just about the worst in terms of using available doses) may be about to improve.

The Washington Post reports in detail in changes to be recommended today by the Trump administration, very similar it appears to what the incoming Biden administration was preparing to recommend when they take over.

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A key change: States will be urged to no longer hold back doses for second shots to those receiving them first. This will make more doses available and the recommendations will include making shots available to all 65 and older.

Making more available is one thing. Getting it delivered is another.

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[Alex] Azar also will announce plans to expand the venues where people can get inoculated, including at community health centers, and offer technical assistance from the National Guard or Federal Emergency Management Agency for states seeking to set up mass vaccination sites as they expand populations prioritized for immunization, according to the remarks.

Governors are supposed to get a briefing on this today and the article is based on the contents of a draft of remarks to be made in that call. Will Arkansas react? Can it react? It has failed to date. But the governor did mention the use of state and county resources to improve vaccine distribution in his legislative address today.

We can hope. It can’t come too soon. See the regional hospital report from the Health Department.

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Also see forecasting from the UA College of Public Health (emphasis supplied):

While we hope and expect the COVID-19 vaccines to have an impact on the epidemic, the impact will not occur in the short or mid-term. We should expect to see large numbers of new cases, new hospitalizations, and deaths for at least the next two months, particularly among the age groups that are less likely to be currently eligible for the vaccine. We are rightly expecting COVID-19 vaccination programs to have an impact on cases, hospitalizations and death, but it is absolutely vital the vaccines be administered to as many citizens as quickly as possible. This will require thinking beyond current vaccine strategies relying on office and pharmacy-based programs. Expecting people to take time off from work and come to an office or central facility twice in 30 days will not produce the hoped-for results. Vaccination rates for COVID-19 will likely be equal to or less than those for the annual flu unless new, more effective approaches are taken.

On the other hand, the Arkansas Pharmacists Association claims community pharmacists have been doing a great job.

Governor Asa Hutchinson’s historic public-private COVID-19 vaccine partnership with pharmacies across the state is paying off as the state progresses through Phase 1A and sees highly successful vaccination rates among community pharmacies. The state’s decision to choose pharmacies as a lead distributor of the COVID vaccine was based on pharmacists’ extensive professional education and training, their accessibility to the public, their wide reach across the state, and their ability to adapt to health crises with innovative solutions.

On January 8, the Arkansas Pharmacists Association (APA) surveyed the 212 community pharmacies and three hospital redistribution partners who are currently administering the COVID vaccine in 73 of Arkansas’s 75 counties. 174 respondents reported they have received 50,379 total doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and have administered 27,733 of those doses by Sunday, January 10th, a 55% vaccination rate among COVID-vaccinating pharmacies in Arkansas. That number is even more impressive considering more than 10,000 of those total doses didn’t arrive to pharmacies until January 9th.

“Arkansas’s pharmacists have been moving with speed, agility, and great passion to get as many people vaccinated as possible in Phase 1A,” APA CEO John Vinson said. “To see the hard work and long hours our pharmacists have been putting in to fight back against this pandemic, it’s no surprise that Arkansas community pharmacists have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.”

Additionally, the survey reflects 60 percent of the pharmacies have completed Phase 1A (based on their experience of declining appointments and inquiries from healthcare workers) and many more are expected to complete it this week. According to the state’s Attestation of Completion, a county is considered to have completed Phase 1A when 80% of the county’s health workers have either been vaccinated or have been offered a vaccine.

A point to remember: Trump caused the disaster.

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