Gov. Hutchinson, health secretary receive COVID-19 vaccine

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. José R. Romero received their first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine during a televised event Monday.

Hutchinson, a 70-year-old Republican, said he was being vaccinated in public to show state residents that the shot is a safe and effective way to curb the new coronavirus, which has caused more than 4,300 deaths in Arkansas.

“We can get through this COVID pandemic by everyone taking the vaccine when it is their turn,” Hutchinson said. He asked Arkansans to be patient as the state works to speed up vaccine distribution.

Hutchinson was vaccinated in Little Rock along with his wife and four teachers. The state began making the vaccine available to teachers and people aged 70 or older on Monday.

As of Monday, 140,559 doses of the vaccine have been given in Arkansas and 1,263 residents were hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health.

The department reported 1,109 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 32 more fatalities. The actual number of cases is believed to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and some who get sick don’t show symptoms.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness and be fatal.