PHOENIX - Arizona's top doctor held a press conference Friday, Feb. 12 to update the public on where the state stands as far as COVID-19 vaccinations.
The update comes as Arizona reported 2,500 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, which shows a drop in daily case numbers while vaccinations pick up. The state recently passed the millionth vaccine dose mark after the vaccine first arrived in mid-December.
That means 10% of the state's population is vaccinated.
Things seemed to start slowly until mid-January when State Farm Stadium was turned into Arizona's largest vaccination site operating 24/7.
Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers
Arizona used up 85% of its doses which prompted Gov. Doug Ducey and state healthcare workers to ask the federal government for 300,000 more doses a week to keep up with demand.
On Feb. 15, Maricopa County, the state's most populous county, is shifting from the 75 year old age limit down to people 65 and older who can get the shot.
About 300 pharmacies are expecting to receive vaccines beginning Feb. 15.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ is still concerned about cases from the Super Bowl and incoming cases from Spring Break.
In the meantime, she believes the state is working out the kinks in the vaccination process, hoping to reach heard immunity, or something close to it, sometime this summer.
"We are hoping by this summer we should be in Phase 3 which is where there’s enough supply to meet the demand," Christ explained.
The state plans to pivot from vaccinating those in high-risk professions and the elderly to underserved communities. They'll be working in high-risk ZIP codes to create points of dispensing sites, also known as PODs.
The PODs will be community-based so that travel isn't necessary.
Christ says Arizona is now in a race against the new, more contagious variant that some doctors say could be the dominant strain by April.
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She’s urging all Arizonans, even ones who have been sick, to get the shot so we all stay safe.
"We know that it’s going to provide a safe and effective way for your immune system to respond without you having to come down with COVID-19," she explained.
Christ said more mitigation measures against the virus from the government would not have mattered since much of the spread was happening in smaller, private gatherings.
Data shows economic disparity in Phoenix vaccinations
Sharp economic disparities exist in metro Phoenix when it comes to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to new information released by Maricopa County.
The county’s Department of Public Health posted a detailed breakdown this week of vaccinations administered by age, race, ZIP code and other factors.
A coded map shows that upscale areas have a high vaccination rate, For example, in Paradise Valley, almost every eligible person has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. The same is true in one part of Scottsdale. In contrast, in one neighborhood in south Phoenix, which is predominantly Hispanic, less than one in five eligible people got the vaccine.
"It’s no surprise when you look at the way the appointment system is set up, the Darwinian aspects of it," said Dr. Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, referring to the state registration website. "You’ve got to have a good computer. You’ve got to have Wi-Fi. You have to have a flexible job that lets you be home those minutes when appointments become open."
Humble, who now leads the Arizona Public Health Association, said such a gap cannot be attributed to just vaccine hesitancy that often is found among communities of color. The allocation of vaccine to the bigger sites like State Farm Stadium is also likely preventing large counties like Maricopa and Pima from doing more outreach in underserved areas, Humble said. He likened it to continuously "taking the cream off the top."
Dr. Cara Christ, state Department of Health Services director, has previously insisted that the share of doses going to state-run mass vaccination sites is not impacting what Arizona’s 15 counties receive.
"We continue to monitor our weekly allocations and we give that out on a pro rata basis of the population of the phase that each county has," Christ told reporters on Feb. 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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