Amid a recent uptick coronavirus cases, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday made Arkansas the latest state to broaden eligibility for booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Under the new policy, boosters are available to anyone 18 or older who received their second shot of one of the two vaccines at least six months ago.
Previously, the state had followed federal recommendations in limiting the boosters to people 65 and older, residents of long-term care settings, people with health conditions putting them at risk of serious complications from COVID-19 and people at heightened risk of catching the virus due to their jobs or living situation.
Hutchinson said boosters are needed because "the data indicates that the effectiveness of the vaccine deteriorates over time."
"This is a change in policy that we're implementing here in Arkansas," Hutchinson said. "I think it'll eliminate some confusion, and it'll also encourage everyone across the board that meets this criteria to go get the booster shot. That's the best protection from the virus and from serious health consequences."
In line with federal recommendations, Arkansas health officials also continue to encourage booster shots for anyone who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
Hutchinson's announcement followed similar moves last week by Colorado, California and New Mexico.
New York City also expanded eligibility for boosters on Monday.
Vaccines also became available for children ages 5 to 11 recently. Locally, vaccines for children in that age group are available at the Union County Local Health Unit.
The change in Arkansas came as the state's count of cases rose by 151, the third daily increase in a row that was larger than the one a week earlier.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus remained at 282.
Rising for the second day in a row, the number of the state's virus patients who were on ventilators went up by one, to 59.
The state's death toll from the virus, as tracked by the Department of Health rose by 12, to 8,579.