The Sentinel-Record

State sees strong booster acceptance


About half the vaccine doses administer­ed in recent weeks have been third doses of Pfizer’s messenger RNA vaccine, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday during his weekly press update.

Pfizer has the only COVID-19 vaccine with a use authorizat­ion for booster doses. Hutchinson said more people need to get their first dose.

“About 28% are first doses, 2,500 to 3,000 is about what we’ve been running on first doses,” he said of daily doses given. “Obviously, we’d like to see that increase, but we’re gradually getting there. We’re just not completely there yet.”

He said the unvaccinat­ed continue to account for about 90% of the state’s new cases, hospitaliz­ations and deaths. He said 53% of the state’s vaccine-eligible population is fully immunized. Eleven percent are partially immunized.

“Vaccinatio­n is the best opportunit­y to not get infected, to stay out of the hospital and reduce the chance of death,” Hutchinson said.

Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s secretary of health, said hospitaliz­ations of children increased 84% from December to the summer, highlighti­ng children’s vulnerabil­ity to severe disease from the delta variant. Pediatric ICU admissions increased 64% from January to July. No use authorizat­ions have been issued for vaccines for children younger than 12.

“It tells you we’re seeing more kids going into the intensive care unit,” Romero said. “We have data showing that those children are requiring more ventilator use than in the past. The disease does have significan­t ramificati­ons.”

Hutchinson said a charter school is the only school that has reached the 70% threshold of vaccinatio­n that allows unvaccinat­ed students and teachers to avoid quarantine. The 70% threshold is part of the more permissive quarantine guidelines the state announced for schools last week.

Unvaccinat­ed teachers and students who have close contact with an infected person can avoid quarantine by submitting to regular rapid testing under a pilot program announced last week. Hutchinson said the Russellvil­le, Springdale, Bentonvill­e and Cabot school districts are piloting the test to stay program.

“We’ll be working with these pilot districts for two weeks,” Education Secretary Johnny Key said. “We’ll look at their data and determine how we want to scale that to other districts that want to be a part of that.”

The state allocated 100,000 of the rapid antigen tests to the pilot program. Antigen tests detect proteins specific to the virus. They don’t require specimens to be sent to a lab but aren’t as accurate as polymerase chain reaction tests that detect the virus’ genetic material.

As a service to our readers, The Sentinel-Record publishes updates released by the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.

The Arkansas Department of Health is no longer reporting confirmed and probable cases separately. The following stats were posted Wednesday on the Health Department’s website:

• 499,886 cumulative cases, up 882 from Tuesday.

• 687.57 rolling seven-day average of new cases, down 38.72 from Tuesday.

• 3,958,473 PCR test reports, up 8,550 from Tuesday.

• 9.3% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Tuesday.

• 7,879 active cases, down 217 from Tuesday.

• 2,076 active juvenile cases, down 45 from Tuesday.

• 484,099 recoveries, up 1,093 from Tuesday.

• 3,856,380 vaccine doses received, up 8,800 from Tuesday.

• 2,957,104 doses given, up 10,272 from Tuesday.

• 624 hospitaliz­ations, down 40 from Tuesday.

• 173 cases on ventilator­s, down 15 from Tuesday.

• 279 ICU patients, down 23 from Tuesday.

• 7,781 deaths, up six from Tuesday.

• 2,212 nursing home deaths, up two from Tuesday.

• 15,692 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 19 from Tuesday.

• 15.57 rolling seven-day average of new cases, down 1.72 from Tuesday.

• 156,335 PCR and antigen test reports, up 311 from Tuesday.

• 10.3% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Tuesday.

• 169 active cases in Garland County, up three from Tuesday.

• 15,149 recoveries in Garland County, up 16 from Tuesday.

• 374 deaths, no change from Tuesday.

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