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  • State vaccine cut has County pumping the brakes on Accelerated Vaccination Plan

    Feb 12, 2021 | Read More News
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    vaccine sitePima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told the Board of Supervisors in a February 12 memorandum that the County Health Department will institute a new vaccine distribution priority plan next week. The plan is in response to vaccine rationing by the state.

    “The lack of predictability and weekly fluctuations in vaccine supply has impacted our ability to commit to vaccination schedules that accommodate the needs of our community,” the County Administrator wrote to the Board.

    The distribution priority focuses on the most vulnerable first, then people needing second doses, following with first doses for people 70 and older, then vaccinations for people 65 and over. The Health Department is incorporating this plan with the overall Phased Priority Plan that is guiding vaccinations. The County is currently vaccinating individuals in Phase 1B Priority Group of that plan.

    Huckelberry noted to the Board the state has reduced the County’s vaccine allotment for the second week in a row. Last week, the state cut the County’s allotment by 40 percent, from 29,000 the first week of February to 17,850. This week it was cut to 16,300.

    “The current inadequate allocation has resulted in our inability to fully utilize our developed and in place infrastructure, limited new first dose appointments (delaying immunization of those 70 and over), and delaying our planned vaccination for at-risk congregate settings,” Huckelberry wrote.

    Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said the reduced vaccine supply from the state will bring the County’s Accelerated Vaccination Plan to a near halt in coming weeks if the state’s supply doesn’t loosen. The Accelerated Plan intends to fully vaccinate 300,000 people in Pima County by the end of March.

    “We believe we can protect second-dose appointments with the current allotment, but if supplies remain this tight, it will be difficult for the public to schedule new first-dose appointments in the coming weeks,” Cullen said. “We were so successful in giving first-dose vaccinations when we opened the 1B priority in the middle of January that we now have more than 100,000 people who need their second shot over the next three to four weeks. We need to follow through on our promise to them, so that means first dose appointments will be limited for a while, which really slows down our Accelerated Plan, unfortunately.”

    “Bottom line is we need more vaccine, but I’m sympathetic to the state’s dilemma. There just isn’t enough to meet all the needs,” Cullen said.

    Pima County Chief Medical Officer and Deputy County Administrator Dr. Francisco Garcia said the County Health Department is working with its vaccination partners and providers to keep from having to cancel existing appointments. But he said the reduced vaccine supply will likely mean the reduction of operating hours at the County’s vaccination centers.

    Banner Health on March 4 will consolidate its vaccination center at the Banner North Cancer Center, 3838 N. Campbell Ave., with its operation at the Banner-run center at Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way. It has stopped making new appointments at the Cancer Center in anticipation of the consolidation. The County and Banner will increase vaccination capacity at the Kino location, but only when there is more vaccine supply. The City of Tucson is reducing its operational hours at the Tucson Convention Center by one hour a day, moving to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. Tucson Medical Center is limiting first-dose appointments to people 75 and older.

    Vaccine distributions to community partners to rural parts of the County also are being curtailed and restricted primarily to delivering second shots.

    “We are getting reports daily that vaccine production is being ramped up nationally and increased supply is on the way. Plus, the approval of a new single-dose vaccine is imminent. So I expect these difficulties will be short-term and we’ll be able to rev-up our Accelerated Plan soon and get people protected from this terrible disease,” Cullen said.

    Other topics discussed in the memo includes the deleterious effect the testing and vaccination operations are having on the County budget and the need to receive reimbursement from the state or federal governments; the Health Department’s plans to inoculate rural and vulnerable populations; a possible housing crisis for immigrants seeking asylum being brought to Pima County by the Department of Homeland Security; and the success of the county’s vaccine registration Call Center in providing assistance to people with limited technological resources.

    For more information about the County's vaccination efforts, visit the Vaccine Information webpage