Working directly with the State Department of Health, bypassing Pima County Health officials, the UA plans to open a state vaccine Point of Distribution (POD) on the UA mall. This will be detrimental to the county efforts to get vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable in our community.
Since the pandemic began, UA leadership’s efforts to be ground zero for all-things-COVID have negatively impacted the surrounding community. They refused to mandate testing for off-campus students, falsely claiming a constitutional ban. The City and County funded the work. The UA invited students back into the region while the pandemic was surging. The result was the UA ZIP code becoming the countywide COVID hot spot. Now comes the UA sidestepping the regional health care authority and dealing directly with Gov. Ducey, establishing a campus vaccination POD. Vaccination doses going to the state POD will count against the county’s allotment.
This week the state has reduced the Pima County vaccine allotment by 40%. What the state takes for the UA POD, decreases the amount the county has to administer at other sites. A recent mobile vaccination site led by Pima County Health was conducted with the intent of addressing the disparity that exists in vaccine distribution. At that site, 72% of the vaccines given went to Hispanic residents. Hispanics constitute only 3.7% of people vaccinated at state-run POD’s.
The Pima County Health Department is the health authority for this region. The UA’s newest effort to gain attention, by becoming the local 24/7 state-run POD, will have a negative impact on the county efforts to vaccinate a diverse population. Including those unable to navigate the new state operated registration system. The vaccine supply is controlled by the state. The UA must not exploit its relationship as an arm of the state by effectively "skimming doses off the top" while the county continues operating in a position where demand is significantly outstripping its state allocation.
Steve Kozachik represents Ward 6 on the Tucson City Council.