Gov. Asa Hutchinson stressed the importance of getting students and minorities vaccinated in his weekly briefing on the state’s coronavirus response on Tuesday at the State Capitol.

He said he wanted to “emphasize the importance of getting vaccinations out in our minority community which currently is behind as compared to their percentage of the population.”

While African-Americans make up around 15 percent of the state’s population, only 10 percent of vaccines administered in the state have been to African-Americans, he said.

“Well over 800,000 Arkansans partially or fully immunized,” the governor said. “Seventy-seven percent have gone to white Arkansans. It shows that we have to continue to work to overcome historic reservations and concerns about vaccination in the minority community.”

To that end, the Arkansas Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity has dispatched teams of health care professionals and volunteers into rural counties with low vaccination numbers to help educate the population and schedule vaccinations.

Hutchinson said it’s also important for the education community ages 16 and up to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Some eligible are still in high school. We really want to pilot this now while school is in session so we can prepare for the fall. In the fall, we hope to have FDA approval for use of the vaccine in children 12 and above so we will have a very comprehensive vaccine program available for students at that age,” Hutchinson said.

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero reminded people the importance of receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“We’re starting to see increasing numbers of people who aren’t returning to receive their second dose. It’s very important that you receive that to become fully immunized. Johnson and Johnson is currently the only single dose vaccine offered,” he said.

The state reported 163 news cases Tuesday. Hospitalizations were up by 7 from the previous day for a total of 152.

“We’re hovering around the same numbers through the course of the week,” the governor said. “COVID-19 is still in our communities.”

Five more Arkansans have died as a result of the virus bringing the stater’s death toll to 5,653.

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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