Friday, February 19, 2021
After the initial announcement Pima County would only receive 12,500 COVID-19 vaccines next week, the county health department announced they expect to receive another 4,600 doses.
The 17,100 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be coupled with the doses that were delayed this week due to harsh winter weather conditions across the U.S. for a total of 33,400 doses.
Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said this week’s 16,300 delayed doses are stuck at a FedEx facility in Memphis, Tenn., and will arrive Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
This week, the 17,100 doses allocated to the county from the state are expected to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday, Cullen said.
The county now only has insight into the allocation of Moderna vaccines, as the state health department has taken over all Pfizer allotments.
“When we opened up the allotment tool on Wednesday night, we got allotted 12,500,” Cullen said. “At that point, we thought we were canceling almost 4,800 appointments. Today, lo and behold, out of the blue, we get a text that says, ‘Oh, there's 4,600 more doses coming your way.’”
While the county now expects to complete 91% of scheduled immunizations from this week and next week due to the surprise increase in doses, this week, between 1,500 and 2,000 individuals saw their vaccine appointments canceled, according to Cullen. Most of the canceled appointments were for first-time doses.
Cullen said the county’s PODs, or points of distribution, that experienced cancellations were mainly the ones that distribute the Moderna vaccine: Tucson Medical Center, Tucson Convention Center and Banner North.
“Our understanding is that the majority of those cancellations have been what people have called sprinkled. So they've been rescheduled for this coming week, the vast majority of them, and they've been sprinkled on different days. Remember, that vaccine was always available, it was allotted, it just wasn't on the ground because of the weather,” Cullen explained.
However, while Cullen expects 91% of appointments will be fulfilled, the uncertainty of the vaccines’ delivery time remains.
“It may turn out that there are additional cancellations and reschedules that are needed,” she said. “If that vaccine does not get here, for instance, before Monday morning, I don't know what the situation will be. It depends on what's happening on the ground with the weather.”
Due to this week’s increase in Moderna vaccines, Cullen expects the county will hold up to four mobile vaccination clinics targeted to serve vulnerable populations next weekend.
While she appreciates the increased Moderna allocation, Cullen says the county’s vaccine infrastructure can handle more doses than the state is allotting.
“Right now, when we're at 17,100, you know, we talked about being made whole—that's still not where we needed to be,” she said. “We needed to be about 17,800 to be at a minimum. Obviously, we need more vaccine. Our infrastructure is designed to do much more than that.”
As many appointments were canceled and mobile PODs for the socially vulnerable were postponed this week, the new state-run University of Arizona POD remains on track with vaccine delivery.
“Ideally, we always anticipated that there would be a high-flow, high-efficiency point of distribution, and that is in our acceleration plan, so we need that,” Cullen said. “I don't want to take away from that need, but at the same time, we know that is not for everybody. We know the racial and ethnic breakdown of who is usually able is usually able to go to these large PODs does not necessarily reflect the community. So we need both.”