Arkansas activates 20 Guard members to assist with vaccines

March 18, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday activated 20 members of the Arkansas Air and Army National Guard to assist with coronavirus vaccinations.

Hutchinson said the Guard members would administer vaccinations in four public health regions. Each of the four teams will include two medics and two personnel to handle logistics and documentation.

“This deployment will accelerate our efforts to contain COVID-19 in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said in a statement.

The teams will serve Arkansans from four public health regions with clinics in Marianna, Prescott, West Memphis and Fort Smith, Hutchinson’s office said in a news release.

The move comes two days after Arkansas expanded vaccine eligibility to nearly 1 million more people in the state. Hutchinson on Tuesday cited a slowdown in demand for the vaccine, particularly in the state’s rural areas.

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According to the Department of Health, nearly 903,000 of the 1.5 million vaccine doses allocated to Arkansas have been given so far.

Arkansas Thursday reported 264 new virus cases, bringing its pandemic total to 328,045. The state has 2,734 active cases, meaning ones that don’t include people who have recovered or died from the virus.

The state reported five new COVID-19 deaths brought the pandemic toll to 5,515, while hospitalizations dropped by 15 to 245.