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Benton County continues with covid-19 vaccines



BENTONVILLE, Ark. –Benton County Judge Barry Moehring gave an overview of the county’s vaccination effort, and the Quorum Court discussed other covid-19-related matters Thursday night.

Moehring’s update came via his monthly report. County vaccination clinics are held at the Benton County Fairgrounds auditorium on Wednesdays. Collier Drug Store provides the vaccines.

“In our partnership with Collier Drug Stores, we’ve facilitated roughly 12,000 vaccinations across Benton County and roughly 4,000 shots at our vaccination destination site at the Benton County Fairgrounds,” Moehring said before the meeting. “These have been Pfizer vaccinations, so these numbers include both first and second doses.”

The county started to give vaccinations Feb. 27 with 1,000 doses at the Northeast Benton County Fire Department in Garfield.

The clinics at the fairgrounds started March 31 and went well as the county surpassed its goal of of 1,000 vaccinations per clinic, said Michael Waddle, director of emergency management. However, numbers have started to trail off recently, he said.

A clinic Wednesday was intended to provide 1,000 second doses to those who came to the clinic on March 31 and provide another 1,000 first doses to those who wanted it. The county ended up providing 1,038 second doses and 268 first doses, Waddle said.

“We have definitely seen the demand dip over the last few weeks, and that is likely a combination of factors to include an increase in availability from numerous clinic opportunities in the region, desire for one shot versus two, and hesitancy within that population remaining,” Waddle said.

The plan is to run the county vaccine clinics out to May 5 to provide second doses from the April 7 and April 14 clinics, Waddle said.

“We will continue to provide doses to anyone who needs or wants a Pfizer vaccine during our clinics on April 28 and May 5,” he said.

No decision has been made on what to do after the May 5 clinic; however, if numbers don’t improve the county may need to scale down and go to a smaller venue, Waddle said.

“I’d like to stress that folks should go and get the vaccine now while it is available. If we cannot use our supply, then it will likely be sent to other areas of demand,” he said.

Moehring also noted the decline in vaccinations.

“We had tremendous demand going back to February and March for vaccinations, but as we have moved through April we’re seeing that decline,” he said. “We’re concerned about this trend. We’re collaborating with other health-care providers and agencies across Northwest Arkansas to educate people that the vaccines are safe, effective — and now plentiful. We’re really encouraging everyone 16 and older to please get your vaccination so that we can beat this pandemic and return to normalcy.”

The Quorum Court last month voted to set aside $100,000 in CARES Act money to help with the vaccination events. So far, less than $30,000 has been spent, Moehring said. The county received $3.79 million in CARES money last year.

The justices of the peace also approved paying expenses related to increasing the number of vaccines given in the county including studies concerning people who haven’t been vaccinated or don’t plan to get vaccinated and what might affect those decisions.

The county will work with Washington and Sebastian counties on a plan spearheaded by the Northwest Arkansas Council for a study and plans, Moehring said. Each county has been asked to appropriate $25,000 for the project, he said.

In other business, the Quorum Court gave an unanimous OK for the county to apply for a federal advancing health literacy grant to enhance equitable community responses to covid-19.

The Reaching Everyone to Achieve Community Health grant would be for $4 million over two years — $2 million each year, said Brenda Peacock, county comptroller.

The county anticipates hearing if it received the grant no later than July 1, she said.

The grant would provide money to work with Washington County, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the Northwest Arkansas Council to improve health literacy and reduce covid-19 and other public health disparities among Hispanic, Latino and Marshallese communities in Benton and Washington counties, according to meeting documents.