As Pima County continues administering COVID-19 vaccines to a select group of individuals, they’re continuing to advocate to the state for more doses to provide immunization to a much larger portion of the population.
Yesterday, Tucson Medical Center had completed the most vaccinations at 31,908, while Banner North stood in second with 17,921, according to information Pima County Chief Medical Officer Francisco Garcia shared in a data chart at a press conference today.
Currently eligible in phase 1B priority of the county’s vaccine rollout are educators, protective service workers and individuals over 75. Healthcare workers have been eligible to receive the vaccine since mid-December.
Since the beginning of January, Garcia said the county has given first-time vaccine doses to 15,523 individuals over 75.
“We are literally vaccinating thousands of folks who are 75 years of age or older. That is so important because these are the folks who are going to die if they get COVID. These are the folks who suffer the worst complications. And these are the folks who really have everything to lose,” Garcia said.
While the county continues to fight for vaccine allocations proportional to its population of more than a million, Arizona’s 24-hour PODs are being allocated nearly the same amount of vaccine as all of Pima County combined.
The two sites, one at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale that opened on Jan. 11 and one at Phoenix Municipal Stadium set to open Feb. 1, were ordered 140,400 doses as of Jan. 26, while the state ordered Pima County 140,425.
The county has administered 79,574 vaccines as of Jan. 26, while the state PODs have administered 79,112.
“To me, that is a really important statistic because it speaks to the fact that we need to have more vaccine on the ground here if we are going to continue to make good progress,” Garcia said. “Right now, our PODs are firing on all engines, it isn't always pretty and it's not always perfect, but we're actually doing a pretty darn good job of getting vaccine administered into the right people's arms.”
Garcia said the county anticipates delivering a second vaccine dose to everyone who received their first shot in order for them to be considered fully immunized.
“I think that we're making a contract with you when you come and get your first vaccine that we're going to stand on our heads if required in order to get you that second dose,” he said.
But if vaccine allocation doesn’t start to increase, the county may have to slow down administering first doses in order to be able to give second ones.
“Unless vaccine supply loosens up, we would start to ramp down the number of first dose appointments as we are ramping up the number of second dose appointments because I can't give you vaccine that I don't have,” Garcia said. “I really do think that we do have a responsibility, a contract with folks who come to us for that vaccination to try to meet that demand.”
As the county continues to struggle with vaccine allocation, health officials are reminiscing on the now year-long struggle to slow the spread of coronavirus. The Arizona Department of Health Services announced the first COVID-19 case in the state on January 26, 2020—a year ago today.
After surveying the spread of the virus in the U.S., Garcia stood up the county’s Emergency Operations Command and admits he at first thought he was “overreacting.”
“Fast forward to today, can I believe that we are one year at this? It is hard to believe. There have been many times when I've thought that I could see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. And unfortunately, my crystal ball has been wrong in those cases,” he said.
“I wish I could tell you that we were almost done. But in some ways, you know, we just hit the halfway point.”Those who currently qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients of those over 75, educators and protective service workers can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.