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  • Additional vaccine distribution points added

    Pima County said it quickly would expand capacity to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine.

    It has.

    “We can put vaccine into people’s arms,” said Pima County Chief Medical Officer and Deputy County Administrator Dr. Francisco Garcia. “We are ready to go. All we are waiting on is for vaccine to be available.”

    Five regional COVID-19 vaccine centers are operational, including three that came on board the week of Jan. 18 as part of Pima County’s accelerated plan. 

    Pima County now has the capacity to administer up to 10,000 shots per day, and there are plans for further major vaccination centers at Rillito Regional Park and in Green Valley. The County made the case to the Arizona Department of Health Services this week that the robust capacity should be considered in future vaccine distribution. 

    Pima County has generally received about 12,500 doses of the vaccine per week from the state, which is responsible for divvying up the allocation received from the federal government. The state distributes vaccine directly to county vaccination partners.
    Fred Boice receives his vaccine
    “If our vaccinators do not get more vaccine stock from the state, we could be done with the existing stock that we have on hand by as early as next Friday,” Garcia said.

    “We believe that the state has a responsibility to equitably distribute this very scarce and very precious resource to those counties outside of Maricopa, and we look forward to receiving those vaccine shipments in abundance so that we can get them into the right people’s arms.”

    There have been 57,676 vaccinations in Pima County, according to numbers released by the state Jan. 21. The County reports that 105,050 doses have been allocated, with 81,550 delivered to vaccination sites as of Jan. 19. 

    Some of those vaccines on hand are held for second doses to complete the vaccination series, and appointments have been made to receive the other existing stock. 

    In partnership with Tucson Medical Center, Banner – University Medicine Tucson, the City of Tucson and the University of Arizona, these are the five major vaccination sites in Pima County (map):
    The last three sites on the list opened this week, including the one at TCC on Jan. 20.

    The registration process for priority Phase 1B -- which includes those 75 and older, educators and staff, and protective services workers -- began in Pima County on Jan. 14. More than 20,000 registrations came in within two hours of the process opening. 

    The overwhelming early demand far outstripped the vaccine currently available. That has caused frustration among those eager to receive the vaccine, especially in the 75 and older group, which has sometimes found it difficult to schedule appointments that are quickly being filled. 

    The ability to schedule appointments far into the future isn’t available because of the uncertainty of how much vaccine will be available, according to Garcia.

    He notes that the effort to vaccinate several hundred thousand people in Pima County as quickly as possible is an enormous undertaking, involving community health care partners, a small army of volunteers and myriad logistical challenges, from mobile freezers capable of storing the vaccine, to syringes to tents to computers to wi-fi.

    The online registration systems were built to initially reach as many people as possible within the eligible 1B groups. The County is working on processes to register and vaccinate those in the 75-plus group who have no or limited internet access or are homebound. 

    Registration information and a telephone help line for priority 1B is at pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration.
    Teacher gets vaccine
    Those 75 and older are encouraged to be vaccinated at Banner North, TMC or the Kino Stadium site. The TCC will serve as the main hub for the protective services group, while those in the education group are encouraged to use the UA vaccination center.

    There are an estimated 350,000 residents in Pima County’s full Phase 1B plan as of Jan. 19. The next group to be eligible are those 65 and older, followed later by essential workers and adults in congregate settings with high-risk medical conditions.

    Garcia acknowledges a bit of a “bottleneck” at the moment with only 12,500 first doses available in the County per week. Patience may be required. At least 125,000 people had registered for the vaccine as of Jan. 21.

    “All this infrastructure we created falls apart if there is not sufficient vaccine stock in our hands or in the hands of our partners,” Garcia said. “We’re trying to balance what we have and answer people’s questions, but as stock loosens up at the federal level, it will be less of a problem.” 

    For FAQs, updated news and eligibility information, go to pima.gov/covid19vaccine.

    Photos: Among those being vaccinated in the 1B priority group are those over 75 (top photo) and educators (bottom photo).
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