JONESBORO — Local health care systems and pharmacies are scrambling to catch up with canceled vaccinations after two winter storms hit the region last week, dropping nearly a foot of snowfall in some areas.
Jett Jones, a pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe on 325 Southwest Drive in Jonesboro, said there were 300 phone calls made last week to reschedule appointments.
“Our (scheduled vaccine) distribution was fine, we still had doses, but we had to reschedule everyone to Tuesday,” he said, noting appointments had to be canceled Monday due to the weather.
Jones said as the next winter storm moved through the area on Wednesday and Thursday, appointments were canceled again.
“We had a big clinic on Saturday and (administered) about 70 vaccines,” Jones said.
Personnel will continue to give vaccines this week, he added, noting, “We have about 300 scheduled.”
Jones said The Medicine Shoppe is part of the state’s hub and spoke model; however, the hub is actually located in Paragould.
St. Bernards Medical Center has also been working to ensure those who need vaccinations will receive them.
Mitchell Nail, St. Bernards media relations manager, said that due to last week’s weather, most vaccination appointments had to be rescheduled.
“We were able to get in some vaccinations in the week, on Monday,” Nail said. “Tuesday through Friday, we had to reschedule.”
Nail said the health care system has allocated extra resources in order to get caught up.
Nail said no vaccinations have been lost as a result of canceled appointments due to inclement weather.
“I think there is a risk of any time you have a vaccination day,” he said of losing vaccinations.
St. Bernards has implemented a vaccination plan where only the hospital’s vaccination clinic prepares the exact number of vaccinations for the day based on appointments.
“Scheduling has been an important part of the process,” he said, noting if someone scheduled cannot make the appointment, the next person on the list is called, so no vaccines are wasted.
Katie Grissom, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital director of clinical operations, said the hospital staff administering vaccinations in the state’s current phase, 1B, had to make numerous calls to reschedule.
“We were able to reschedule most of those to Saturday, Monday, today and Wednesday,” she said. Grissom said NEA Baptist Memorial so far has inoculated more than 5,000 people.
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Arkansas State epidemiologist, said the state received nearly all the expected Pfizer vaccine shipments, but only half of the expected Moderna vaccinations.
“This will be a busy week,” she said, noting in some areas of the state facilities will be receiving double shipments.
Dillaha said the entire nation can expect to see more vaccinations flood the states if the Food and Drug Administration approves the Johnson and Johnson vaccination. The FDA will meet Feb. 26, she said.
Dillaha also noted some misconceptions she has heard regarding the vaccines.
“We consider people fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received both doses,” she said.
Dillaha said the Centers for Disease Control currently recommends those who have received both the first and second doses of their vaccinations do not have to quarantine if they come in direct contact with someone who has COVID-19. Dillaha said the recommendation specifically states that is only true for the first three months after being fully vaccinated.
“This does not mean that the vaccination stops working after 90 days,” she said.
She said immunity lasts longer, but there is no clear data on what the exact time frame is.
“Studies are ongoing,” she said. “The data is being analyzed, and official recommendations will be made as more data becomes available.”
Dillaha also wanted to clear up another misconception.
“The vaccination is 95 percent effective in preventing cases of COVID-19, and 100 percent effective in preventing severe cases,” she said. “That leaves 5 to 6 percent of the population who could still get a mild case of COVID-19.”
The Arkansas Department of Health continues to encourage everyone to socially distance and to avoid large crowds.
“Current estimates are we will be in Phase 1c sometime in April,” she said.