Article courtesy Associated Press
Arizona’s first doses of coronavirus vaccine will go to the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas before smaller counties and tribes begin receiving shipments in the second week, the state’s health director said Dec. 11.
In the first week, Maricopa County will get 47,000 doses and Pima County will get 11,000, according to the state’s latest distribution plans. Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, expects Arizona will receive its largest vaccine shipment of the year, 189,000 doses, the following week and will spread them across the state.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be frozen at much colder temperatures than Moderna’s, complicating the distribution. Christ has said many rural areas will get the Moderna vaccine to ease the shipping, but that vaccine is about a week behind Pfizer’s in the regulatory approval process.
Arizona is expected to get 384,000 doses by the end of December to begin inoculating health care workers and people in long-term care facilities against the coronavirus.
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The state is recruiting doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and pharmacists to help vaccinate people. In the early stages, five mass vaccination clinics are planned for health care workers in Maricopa County and two in Pima County, Christ said. Eventually, as production ramps up and more doses arrive in 2021, health care providers will be able to order their own.
The state is nearing the end of work on a data system to keep track of who’s been vaccinated, where, when and with which vaccine so that people can be reminded to take a second dose, which is required to achieve the highest levels of immunity, Christ said.
Christ said much of the new infections are coming from small at-home gatherings of people who know each other. It’s not enough to wear a mask only when leaving the house, she said; faces should be covered whenever people are around others they don’t live with.
“I think what’s happening is people are letting their guards down in what they consider familiar and trusted places,” Christ said.
On Dec. 15, Arizona reported more than 60 new known deaths as the current coronavirus surge set another record for hospitalizations and saw the rolling seven-day averages of additional cases and deaths more than double over the past two weeks.
The state Department of Health Services on Dec. 15 reported 4,134 additional known cases and 64 deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 424,382 cases and 7,422 deaths.
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The rolling average of daily new cases rose from 3,499 on Nov. 30 to 7,772.1 on Monday while the rolling average of daily deaths rose from 25 to 58.3, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project.
Hospital officials and public health experts have warned that the continuing surge of COVID-19 cases will exceed the state’s health system’s capacity this month.
In an effort to halt the spread of the virus, the state has imposed various restrictions in effect that have closed and limited operations in some establishments, but Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has declined to order a statewide mask requirement or to impose new lockdowns as urged by public health advocates and others. Many local governments have imposed mask mandates and a few have set curfews.
Christ continued to urge Arizona residents to wear masks, distance, wash their hands, avoid large gatherings and stay home when sick.
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“With reliable vaccines on the horizon, there is hope. But for now, we must continue to do all that we can to mitigate the spread of covid-19,” said Christ in a video message. “With more holidays coming, it’s a reason for all of us to be vigilant.”