PHOENIX - Officials with the Arizona Department of Health say those 55 and older will now be eligible for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a statement, officials are calling the arrangement a "hybrid approach" that will allow those 55 and older to get the shots alongside frontline essential workers.
The hybrid approach was launched on Mar. 1 in the Phoenix Metro area.
AZDHS says 90% of the state's deaths from COVID-19 have been among those 55 and older. 65% of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 are in that age group.
"The new hybrid approach will ensure the distribution of vaccine doses to individuals at high risk of severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death, from COVID-19 due to age while allowing local health departments to prioritize frontline essential workers through employer-based vaccination strategies," read a portion of the statement.
Information on the phase of each county currently vaccinating, the number of doses ordered by each county, and the location of vaccination sites can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.
On March 2 at noon, AZDHS will open 50,000 vaccination appointments at State Farm Stadium in Glendale and Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
As for vaccinating essential workers, Dr. Cara Christ with AZDHS said on Mar. 1 that it's up to the counties to determine who falls in the essential worker category to be able to get the vaccination.
Those that fall in the category of essential workers include food and agricultural workers, transit and postal workers, airlines, transportation and grocery store employees.
Gila County already vaccinating general population
Meanwhile, there is one county in Arizona that is already vaccinating the general population.
So far in Gila County, About 16,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccination have been administered, and about 38% of the population is now vaccinated.
The county's Deputy Director of Public Health, Josh Beck, says with the Johnson & Johnson vaccination soon making its way to Arizona, he's hoping that number goes up.
"I think having the option, those extra options are going to help get from that 40%, 50% to 60% to 70% or higher," said Beck.
Gila County's decision to allow the general population to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is based on the county’s vaccination POD numbers.
"We opened it up to 65 and older, and it was a 2,000 person POD and we didn’t quite have enough people to register for that, so at that point, we opened up the county - at least that POD - to anyone in the general population for that weekend," said Beck.
In a few weeks, it will be even easier for those living in the county to get a vaccine.
"As soon as we conclude our second dose drive-thru clinics, which is in about 30 days, we’ll be transitioning to just going into any of our healthcare partners for any resident who wants a shot," said Michael O'Driscoll, Gila County's Director of Health and Emergency Management.
Only residents of Gila County can get vaccinated by the county. The state-run PODs are the only locations that offer vaccination to anyone who qualifies, regardless of where they live.
How to sign up and schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment
- Register for appointments at State Farm Stadium, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Chandler-Gilbert Community College and other vaccination sites at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov
- Vaccination site information: azhealth.gov/findvaccine
- You can use the Patient Portal at podvaccine.azdhs.gov to make an appointment for a relative in a prioritized group
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Monitor your health daily