SCVRH

The Green Valley Fire District, Green Valley Council, Premier Medical Group and local volunteers administered 2,903 second vaccine doses on March 8-11 at Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital.

Both Green Valley ZIP codes are at the top of the list when it comes to the percentage of people vaccinated in Pima County, as of April. 27, according to the county’s dashboard.

About 80% of the 6,294 residents in the 85622 ZIP code, which includes part of Green Valley and west beyond the mines, are fully vaccinated.

In 85614, which includes part of Green Valley and southern parts of Sahuarita, it’s about 72% of the population of 24,294.

In ZIP code 85629, which includes Rancho Sahuarita, about 39% of the 28,278 residents are fully vaccinated; 52% have received the first dose.

Local leaders point to collaboration among community organizations for making the vaccines rollout successful.

Green Valley Council President Debbie Kenyon was an advocate for vaccine sites coming to the area and helped to ensure multiple vaccination events.

“Primarily, we’re a community at the southern end of the county and being an unincorporated area, it was very important to work with community partners,” she said. “We were able to get PODS down here and worked with partners to take care of those who don’t like to drive up into Tucson. Green Valley is their home base and they stay here so it’s very important to make sure those people could access vaccines here.”

Kenyon wasn’t surprised about the high vaccination rates in Green Valley, saying the community is educated and proactive.

She said GVC is focusing on providing residents information, like how homebound people can get vaccinated and where to find vaccines at local providers or pharmacies.

Though the numbers are good, GVC is still encouraging people to be cautious.

“People are very frustrated, it’s been a very long time, over a year,” Kenyon said. “As the county begins relaxing guidelines our message is still just be safe. In situations, it always pays to have a mask in your back pocket. We will get through this eventually so continue to be patient.”

The number of people who received at least one dose of the vaccine in the area is even higher.

In 85622, about 87% have received at least one dose. In 85614, it’s about 74%.

Get to ‘yes’

Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy said he believes a major cause of the high vaccine rates in Green Valley and parts of Sahuarita is the collaboration from community partners.

“In my experience, from the school board to the town to UCHC, everybody, it started with wanting to work together and get to ‘yes,’” he said. “What separates us from other communities is that collaborative effort at serving the community.”

Murphy mentioned the efforts of United Community Health Center, Green Valley Fire District, the Town of Sahuarita, GVC and Sahuarita Unified School District.

Though there were never longterm PODs or vaccine sites in Green Valley or Sahuarita, there were multiple popup events in town.

Murphy said he’s advocated for the importance of bringing vaccines here to the population who may have struggled to get to Tucson.

“I was trying to be a champion for both communities to have vaccines locally available,” he said. “To say go down to the state site at the UA mall can be a challenge physically for people. If it’s not easy, you won’t get the greater compliance you need. Everyone was working together and made it as smooth and easy and convenient as possible.”

Murphy said he respects the choice of those who do not want to receive the vaccine and it’s important to balance freedom and individual decision-making.

“We try to do it in an educational, encouraging way and I’ve always avoided — whether it was mask wearing or vaccines — to avoid coming from ‘you better do this,’” he said. “We’ve done well because we work together to try to educate people.”

He said achieving higher vaccination rates will lead the way to more normalcy.

“I think in general the conventional wisdom is the quicker to herd immunity, the better,” he said. “There’s a level of confidence in taking fear out of the equation. You can get back to normal faster when more people are vaccinated than not. I think if you’re comfortable getting vaccinated, get vaccinated, get closer to that herd immunity.”

Pima County spokesman Mark Evans said the county has been working with community partners since December to help with the vaccination effort. In Green Valley, it was primarily through GVFD and UCHC.

Residents also had access through pharmacies and sites in Tucson.

Evans said Green Valley is “leading the way” but it is not considered at herd immunity yet.

“If Green Valley was a more rural community and had less mobility, you could consider it having community immunity, but because many folks in Green Valley and Sahuarita commute to Tucson frequently, they are part of the larger metro area, which still has a ways to go for community immunity,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to keep up with mitigation by wearing masks and limiting the size of gatherings.”

Evans said UCHC and area pharmacies still have vaccine allocations, and the county does not currently have additional mobile PODs planned for the area. However, if a group of 60 or more wanted to get vaccinated, the county could accommodate it.

Type of vaccine

The majority of residents in the Green Valley area received the Moderna vaccine. In 85622, there were 6,373 Moderna shots; 3,836 Pfizer and; 142 Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

In 85614, there were 20,661 Moderna shots administered; 12,153 Pfizer shots; and 499 J&J shots.

In 85629, there were 9,384 Moderna shots; 8,762 Pfizer shots; and 445 J&J shots.

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.