Cara Christ

Dr. Cara Christ at a press conference Nov. 18. 

Pfizer has asked the FDA for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna is expected to follow suit soon, meaning vaccines could be available in the United States by mid- to late-December. 

Both vaccines have been found to be 95 percent effective in early analysis.

Emergency use allows a product to be used before all the evidence is available for approval. It is granted in special cases.  

Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out plans for Arizona.

State plan

State Health Director Cara Christ said they anticipate Arizona will have a vaccine in hand to disperse at the beginning of 2021.

She said it will be a two-dose series given 21 to 28 days apart. Both doses must be the same type of vaccination.

Once the FDA approves the vaccines, Christ said a state advisory committee will form and the government will designate which groups  have priority.

The state created a COVID-19 task force this year and the Arizona Department of Health Services submitted a draft COVID-19 Vaccination Plan in October.

First in line

It’s expected that vaccinations will be in limited supply initially, so the first phase would focus on those identified as a priority group. The state’s draft outlines the order of priority as:

1A: Health care workers and first responders.

1B: Other essential workers like teachers and people at increased risk like those over 65 and people in long-term care facilities.

2: People at increased risk of contracting the virus, like those attending college, people in tribal communities, minority groups or the homeless.

2: People with limited access to vaccination sites, such as those living in rural communities.

Distribution

During the initial phase, vaccines would go to organizations that can quickly vaccinate a large amount of people without an infrastructure change, such as acquiring extended cold storage.

The CDC will inform the state how many doses are available and the state would allocate the doses to its 15 health departments and tribal communities.

The state partnered with Arizona State University, which identified 31 high-risk areas that contain about 54 percent of all Arizonans who are at elevated risk of COVID-19 or COVID-19 complications.

Once the initial allocations occurred and supply of vaccines increased, providers could use an internal system created by the state in September to order vaccines.

The federal government has vowed to make the vaccinations available for free.

According to news reports, the FDA has scheduled a Dec. 10 meeting of its outside advisory panel to discuss Pfizer and German partner BioNTech's application for emergency use authorization. A decision could come as soon as the end of that meeting. 

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 

Reporter

Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.