Friday, February 12, 2021
Despite a widening population of eligible vaccine recipients and the addition of a state-run POD at the University of Arizona set to open on Thursday, Pima County’s vaccine allocation from the state has been cut yet again.
Last week, the county's vaccine supply was decreased to 17,850—a 40% deduction from the previous week. This week, the doses were cut down by 9% for a total allotment of 16,300.
According to a memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, the truncated allocation has limited the county’s ability to give first-time doses—many for those 70 and older who became eligible last week—and delayed plans for vaccinations in vulnerable congregate settings.
The county’s accelerated immunization plan calls for 300,000 vaccines by the end of March, a goal the health department was previously ahead of. Now, county health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said the plan will come to a “near halt” within weeks if the county doesn’t receive more doses.
According to Cullen, more than 100,000 residents need a second dose to be considered fully immunized over the next three to four weeks.“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 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.”
Dr. Francisco Garcia, the county’s chief medical officer, said the limited vaccine supply will likely result in reduced hours at the county’s current vaccination sites, but the health department is working with its vaccination partners to avoid canceling existing vaccine appointments.
Reduction in hours and vaccine supply at Pima County’s PODs
The Tucson Convention Center is reducing its vaccination hours one hour a day, operating 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m., while the Tucson Medical Center is only providing first-dose appointments to those 75 and older, according to a press release from the county.
The two Banner sites are consolidating their operations on March 4, so both the Banner North and Banner South sites will operate at the Kino Sports Complex. Resultantly, Banner North has stopped making new appointments.
Other vaccination sites at community health centers will also curtail vaccinations and will focus on delivering second doses only.
Cullen is hopeful that a national increase in vaccine supply and the potential for the approval of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will go before the FDA for emergency use authorization on Feb. 26.
“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,” Cullen said. “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.”