Pima County will begin Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout late next week, and those age 75 and older are a high priority. But officials caution the public to remain patient while it establishes a distribution process.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the county is moving forward with six regional vaccine centers in Tucson for the Phase 1B rollout: Tucson Medical Center, Banner North Cancer Center, Rillito Park Racetrack, the University of Arizona, Kino Banner South/Kino Stadium District, and Tucson Convention Center.
Huckelberry included the locations in a Thursday memo to the Board of Supervisors. He also said all the sites would likely be operational starting Jan. 15-19, depending on logistical requirements.
Other sites are also under consideration.
Huckelberry reported the county is looking at options other than the "cumbersome" state registration process. He said the state system is one of the most significant challenges.
During the meeting, he said registration for assisted living homes was upended by those who didn't registered. Huckelberry said the county is working on other methods, such as using a phone number, to manually register people who didn't have a computer or internet access for online registration.
The state reported 13 out of 15 counties are still in Phase 1A as of Wednesday. Pinal and Gila counties were in Phase 1B.
On Thursday, Huckelberry told the Green Valley News that Phase 1B should begin in Pima County late next week, and the county would prioritize people 75 and older along with protective service personnel.
"Mainly, that's because they're more susceptible and more likely to be hospitalized," he said. "Therefore, if we want to significantly reduce the current stress on the hospital system, we need to get that group vaccinated."
Health Department Administrative Support Services Manager Jennie Mullins said the county plans to have more information "soon" on how people can register and where to find assistance with the vaccination process.
"We are currently working in partnership with the Pima Council on Aging to explore several avenues to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people over 75 years of age to get vaccinated in Pima County," she said. "We will have a variety of options for people to choose from to best meet their needs, everyone from healthy and independent individuals to the homebound, and those living in high-risk congregate settings."
Mullins said the county asks people to remain patient and continue COVID-19 safety measures until more information is available.
"We also want to ask for anyone with medical training to consider volunteering to join the COVID-19 response," she said. "They can find information on registration on our Volunteer Opportunities webpage."
PCOA President and CEO W. Mark Clark released a statement Thursday confirming the organization's cooperation with the county Health Department.
"PCOA remains particularly concerned about reaching homebound and isolated older adults and those in rural areas of Pima County," he said. "As of today, specific guidance for how to access the vaccine is not yet available for people in the 75 and older category."
Clark said PCOA plans to share information with the public through its communication channels once available and "encourage people to be patient with these processes, which will move at different paces in communities across the state."
The county expects to complete Phase 1A and 1B by March 31.
The general population falls into Phase 2 and 3. The county expects all vaccinations completed for about 640,000 residents by June.