The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement issued a statement of alarm today over the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Arkansas and the state’s low vaccination rate.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement Health Policy Board calls upon all Arkansans to redouble efforts to get protected from COVID-19 through vaccination and to continue defensive strategies including face masks in public, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing. Elected officials, private businesses, faith leaders, school and college officials, and community leaders must amplify the warning signal of the COVID-19 threat.

Arkansas is currently experiencing an escalation of COVID-19 driven by the more infectious Delta variant. At the same time, Arkansas is one of the least protected states in the nation because of low vaccine uptake. Together, these two facts are cause for alarm, and the result is reflected in the current rise in cases seen across our communities.

People who are unprotected because they have not been vaccinated should recognize that because of Arkansas’s low vaccination rate, whenever they enter a public place such as a grocery store, entertainment venue, church, or dormitory, they likely are around other unprotected people, and the virus is likely present. The unprotected should get vaccinated today to protect themselves, their families, and others around them ― especially because young children are not currently eligible for the vaccine.

For those who have had COVID-19, the antibodies developed as a result of the infection do not provide total protection. Some people have been reinfected after they have had COVID-19, and the Delta variant appears to be more likely to cause reinfections than the original virus. Even people who have had COVID-19 infections should get vaccinated.

People who have received only the first dose of a two-dose shot regimen ― the protocol for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines ― should be aware that new research suggests a single shot provides far less protection than two shots against the Delta variant, and significantly less protection than a single dose provides against the Alpha variant. These people should get their second shot as soon as the protocol allows.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated should know that while scientific evidence is still limited, reports suggest that the Delta variant may reduce vaccine effectiveness. With this variant surging, the fully vaccinated should consider reinstituting defensive measures they may have relaxed, including face masks in public, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing.

Good luck. The Fox echo chamber in which most Republican politicians/followers dwell is now actively anti-vaccination. To the extent there are sentient Republicans in Arkansas, they seem to have adopted a “be nice” strategy. Stop making fun of science deniers. It just hardens them, the messaging goes. Be sweet and maybe they’ll get a shot.

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To which the obvious response is: The governor’s spin-and-grin routine is having about as much success as in swelling the number vaccinated as prohibiting sex education has worked at reducing the teen pregnancy rate. I have nothing but scorn for those who deny science and who not only proudly refuse to protect others by following the advice of health experts they also prohibit sound practice by others.