Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that people in the state’s Phase 1-C category are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Those listed in the 1-A category have been vaccinated, and people that fall in the 1-B category are still being vaccinated.

Last month the governor lifted most of the state’s restrictions because of the virus, and he still plans to lift the state’s mask mandate at the end of this month if case numbers stay low.

“The reasons for this,” Hutchinson said, referring to opening the vaccines up to people in the 1-C category, “is that President Biden and the administration emphasize that by May 1 they wanted everyone to be eligible – all Americans to be eligible for a vaccine.”

Hutchinson added that vaccine production is being increased.

People who are included in the 1-C category are those between the ages of 16 and 64 with health conditions that increase their risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19.

Essential workers in the 1-C category include the areas of: Energy; Finance; Food Service; Information Technology and Communications; Legal; Media; Public Health and Human Services; Public Safety; Shelter and Housing; Transportation and Logistics.

People living in high risk settings also are included in the 1-C category, which would be those incarcerated, people in group homes, or in crowded or student housing.

“There is a lower acceptance rate for the vaccine in the rural areas of our state, which we have to overcome,” Hutchinson said Tuesday. “In those environments we get the supply there but in many instances we’ve had a low acceptance rate. We have to increase that. At the same time we’re increasing the opportunity for those all across the state to get vaccinated as well.”

The Walmart pharmacy in Newport is administering COVID-19 vaccines through the U.S. Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Eligible patients can make their appointment through an online scheduler by visiting http://Walmart.com/covidvaccine. The Walmart Supercenter is located at 1211 Highway 367 N., in Newport.

Hutchinson cautioned that just because the state is opening eligibility up to the 1-C category does not mean that everyone is going to be able to get an appointment this week, or even next week, because there are almost a million people in that category.

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