The Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club hosted Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) at its
weekly meeting on Wednesday, and among the many things he discussed, the pandemic and low vaccination rates in the state were present. This may strike your fancy more than usual due to the fact Arkansas reported its highest one-day COVID-19 case spike in 4 months on Wednesday at 686 new cases. Simultaneously, Arkansas has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country.
At Rotary, Hutchinson commended the fact that "over 50%" of adults in the state have been vaccinated, but actually only 34.3% of eligible Arkansans — which is anyone 12 and older — have been vaccinated.
However, the low vaccination rate isn't for lack of trying. From lottery tickets to Game and Fish certificates, the state has tried incentivizing people to get vaccinated, it just hasn't worked. In a press conference on Tuesday the governor announced the vaccine incentive program is "past the prime; it's no longer getting the results that we want, so it will be wound down."
"We have a high rate of vaccination in our senior citizens, which keeps our hospitalizations down more, so we have the languishing 30-50 year olds that are not getting the vaccinations at the rate we would like to see," Hutchinson said at Rotary. "Now there's a limit to what government can do. There's a limit to what I can do.
"It is a matter of making sure the vaccine is available and making sure people have the information; that it's important and it saves lives. And the fact is that of the hospitalizations we see today over 98% of the hospitalizations are people who have not been vaccinated."
Hutchinson said his philosophy throughout the pandemic has been "let's inform everybody and share every bit of information we have to the public." While doing this and spreading information about the importance of getting vaccinated to keep a physically healthy state, he has also prioritized the financial health of the state.
"I had pressure to close everything in Arkansas, and Arkansas was one of only five states that did not shut their economy down and put in place shelter in place orders," he said. "Some of you might disagree with that, but I didn't call the essential businesses nonessential businesses. We kept our businesses open to the extent that we could, we wanted to make sure our economy kept going, and I think it was the right decision because that helped people's lives and families and livelihood."
Likewise, Arkansas is now one of five states* with the lowest vaccination rates, and as a result is being dubbed as one of five states most likely to have an outbreak with the new Delta variant making its rounds. The proof is in the number of COVID-19 cases that have once again begun to rise in the state.
Like the experts and Hutchinson say: get vaccinated if you're eligible.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, or where to get it in Arkansas, visit https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-vaccination-plan .
*Arkansas is joined by Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming.