Teachers get early COVID-19 vaccine ahead of Phase 1B launch

Some pharmacies are experiencing vaccine appointment cancellations, so they’re using the extra doses for teachers because the demand is high.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Pharmacies have started administering the COVID-19 vaccine to Phase 1B candidates early, including educators and those over 70 years old.

“Under no circumstance do we want a pharmacist to throw away doses,” said John Vinson, CEO of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association. “From the time the first dose is drawn for Moderna, you have six hours to administer those doses.”

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Some pharmacies are experiencing vaccine appointment cancellations, so as time gets closer to Monday’s Phase 1B of the vaccine administration, pharmacists are starting early by using the extra doses for teachers because the demand is high.

“Next week’s appointments by and large are completely full,” said Vinson.

The state expects to receive between 30,000 to 50,000 doses. It’s planning for 30,000, which means if the state receives more, further appointments will be made.

But still with 443,000 qualifying Arkansans in Phase 1B, not all can get the shot next week.

“It’s really critical to understand the math of what we are looking at,” said Vinson. “It’s going to take a month or two months to get the doses we need to vaccinate these patient populations that open on Monday.”

The Arkansas Pharmacists Association is hopeful more doses become available.

“The Trump Administration agrees with the incoming Biden Administration that the federal government will be releasing doses that they’ve held back, but what don’t know yet is what day that will occur,” said Vinson.

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The first part of Phase 1B vaccination begins Monday.

That includes people 70 years and up, plus teachers, school staff, and childcare workers.