Arkansas rural communities facing struggles to get residents vaccinated

Arkansas

CAMDEN, Ark. – As the vaccine distribution continues to climb across the country, Arkansas is falling below the national average.

Governor Asa Hutchinson says there is still an issue of getting people in rural communities to get vaccinated.

Camden was set to have a UAMS COVID-19 vaccine clinic Thursday, but it was canceled because not enough people signed up.

Ouachita County has a population of just over 23,000 and if you look at the numbers from the Arkansas Department of Health the community is above the state average vaccination rate.

Camden Mayor Julian Lott doesn’t expect that to last.

“It’s not been hard getting it into the arms of people who want it,” Lott said.

Lott said they have plenty of doses just not enough arms.

“We had almost 70% of our own police department that did not want to take the shot,” Lott said.
From police to those in healthcare like Latishia Lockhart, there is a hesitancy about getting the vaccine.

“I haven’t had the vaccine yet. With everything there’s always side effects to be cautious and be on your mind about,” Lockhart said.

While she believes the side effects are something to consider, that’s not what made her decision.
“It’s just that feeling for me. I pray very spiritual, and I’m just getting that to lead me right now,” Lockhart said.

Lott is trying to find ways to encourage folks to sit down and roll up their sleeves.

“The main thing now is learning how to use the different media platforms that are available,” Lott said.

Earlier in the pandemic, he enlisted the help of Camden native and current Toronto Blue Jay Jonathan Davis and other well-known people to encourage mask wearing and social distancing. He plans to do that for the vaccine.

“We make it trendy,” Lott said.

He’s hoping as others show their experience, this rate will continue to increase.

“I’d say if we could get to about 68% to 75% of our community fully vaccinated and ready to move forward, I think we can adapt to a new normal,” Lott said.

Lott said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was a pretty easy sell to the community with the one-and-done shot. He is worried that could cause more hesitancy.

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