First doses of coronavirus vaccine administered in Arkansas

December 14, 2020 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas on Monday began administering its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine as the state reported 45 more deaths from the illness caused by the virus.

Five health care workers, including the state’s surgeon general, were the first to be vaccinated during a news conference at the Arkansas Health Department. The first person vaccinated was Sherian Kwanisai, the department’s nursing director for local public health.

“I’m excited,” said Kelley Garner, program manager with the department’s Healthcare Acquired Infections Program, who was the second to get vaccinated. “I know this is the first step to getting back to normal.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted that the state received the frozen vials made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech earlier Monday morning and that other shipments were expected later in the day. The governor said all of these shots will go to Arkansas health care workers.

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Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said the department, two hospitals and a pharmacy each received 975 doses of the vaccine and more were coming. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said it was set to receive 2,000 doses on Tuesday.

“This is a major step forward,” Romero told reporters.

The vaccines arrived as COVID-19 continued to surge in Arkansas and the rest of the U.S. Arkansas’ confirmed and probable virus cases rose by 1,355 to 187,057. Forty-five more people in the state died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total fatalities since the pandemic began to 2,990.

The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by seven to 1,050. Twenty-seven percent of the state’s 8,943 hospital beds are available and 7% — or 81 — of the state’s 1,160 intensive care unit beds are available, according to the Department of Health. There are 372 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state.

More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the Food and Drug Administration will decide whether to green light the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

“Brighter days are ahead, but we must continue to follow public health guidelines,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. “This virus continues to rapidly spread, and it’s up to each of us to do our part to slow the spread.”

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