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We’re almost a month into our COVID-19 immunization program, and today I’d like to emphasize the importance of Arkansans taking one of the two approved vaccines so that we can stop the coronavirus and get back to our lives.
The vaccines are the most important tool in our fight against COVID. The masking, the social distancing, and the hand washing continue to be important, but they are placeholders while researchers developed a vaccine. The vaccine is our big gun, and if people participate widely, the number of cases will decline.
In Phase 1-A, we have received 194,000 doses of the vaccine to date, and we have administered nearly 59,000 to health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff. EMS and law-enforcement officers and firefighters have also been included as first-responders. We hope to inoculate all of the 180,000 people in Phase 1-A by January 30.
Phase 1-B, which we plan to start in February, includes people who are at least 70 years of age, teachers and school staff, food and agricultural workers, firefighters and law enforcement that were not included in 1-A. It will also include manufacturing workers, grocery store employees, public transportation workers, child care workers, and essential workers in government, including legislators.
Phase 1-C will include people at least 65 years of age, people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, and a number of other categories. From transportation and logistics workers, waste and wastewater employees, food-service workers, shelter and housing employees, and those in finance. It will also include IT and communications employees, media, public safety, and public health workers. Phases 2 and 3 will round out the vaccination program.
Some people are reluctant to take the vaccine, and I understand that. Members of the black community have historically distrusted vaccines, but African Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID, so it is all the more important that they have the vaccine.
Keith Jackson, a championship football player at Parkview High School, the University of Oklahoma, and in the NFL, has devoted his life after football to improving life for kids in Central Arkansas. He founded Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids, or P.A.R.K. He knows that the COVID shot is important, which is why he will roll up his sleeve when it’s his turn.
Joe Booker, star of the Broadway Joe Morning Show, is encouraging his listeners to take the vaccine as well. He has made a public service announcement for the Arkansas Department of Health.
“For me, getting the vaccine is the right choice because I love my family,” he says. “I love my wife, my children. I would do anything to keep them all safe. Right now, the best thing I can do is to commit to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. For those of you who are unsure about getting the vaccine, I urge you to think about your loved ones. Many of you may have underlying health conditions or be at a higher risk of contracting the virus. I know keeping them safe is a high priority to you, just as it is to me.”
Thank you, Broadway Joe.
I also have confidence in the vaccine myself. The First Lady and I will be taking the vaccine when it is our turn. I hope you will also.