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AR Health Officials Work to Clear Up Vaccine Misinformation, Misconceptions

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Friday, July 16, 2021   

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Health officials in Arkansas are urging residents who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine yet to change that as soon as possible, as the Delta variant makes its way through the state.

Slightly more than 35% of Arkansas residents are fully vaccinated, meaning it's been two weeks since their last dose, compared with nearly half of Americans nationwide.

Dr. Michelle Smith, director of the Office of Health Equity and HIV Elimination at the Arkansas Department of Health, said at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, it was easy to get people into line to get a vaccine, but now it has stalled.

"It's more of coaxing and talking to people one on one about addressing their fears, the hesitancy, the misinformation that they've been receiving," Smith explained.

Fewer Black, brown and Indigenous residents have received the vaccine than white residents, but Smith noted major progress has been made since the start. She emphasized key steps have been making sure people have transportation and holding clinics on the weekend or later in the evening for people who can't miss work.

Smith added it is critical to meet communities where they are.

"We don't just go into a community expecting them to come to us," Smith noted. "The community is involved in our planning, from beginning to end, and that's the most important component of making sure that it is equitable."

Smith encouraged unvaccinated residents to have one-on-one conversations with their health-care providers, who can clear up any misinformation or misconceptions people may have about the vaccine. She stressed the approved vaccines are safe, and protect communities, especially the elderly and the immunocompromised.


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