At least seven Arkansas banks are participating in "Operation Vax Speed," an initiative announced Tuesday between the Arkansas Bankers Association and the Arkansas Pharmacists Association to offer COVID-19 vaccines at bank branches throughout the state.
As of Tuesday, the following banks were offering branches as vaccination sites, according to the association:
- Centennial Bank (multiple branches)
- Arvest Bank (multiple branches)
- Farmers & Merchants Bank
- First Security Bank in Searcy
- First Service Bank in Greenbrier
- First National Bank in Walnut Ridge
- Farmers Bank & Trust in Wilson
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the initiative on Tuesday, the same day he expanded those eligible to receive vaccines to everyone in group 1C — about 1 million more people. The governor said the partnership with Arkansas banks would help expedite the process of vaccinating as many Arkansans as possible.
"When this idea was first discussed a few weeks ago, I saw it as a great opportunity that we needed to work on implementing," the governor said in a news release. "This is another example of how our state's business leaders are working together and being innovative to help get this pandemic under control. I applaud both organizations for their efforts to help their fellow Arkansans."
The organizations said that in many smaller towns, vaccine distribution can be limited by the lack of space available within pharmacies or the lack of a local pharmacy altogether.
"With more than 1,300 bank offices across the state in almost every city and town, banks are in a unique position to work with local pharmacists to provide additional space to increase vaccination clinic capacity," Arkansas Bankers Association President and CEO Lorrie Trogden said. "There are several clinics already scheduled with more being added every day."