Vaccine

Vaccines waiting to be administered last week to Green Valley Fire District crews.

Pima County will start a limited rollout of Phase 1B vaccinations Friday, but it could be late January before a site is available in Green Valley.

The county plans to have five vaccination sites running by late next week, and another one coming online by early February. Two sites are already open and have been giving Phase 1A vaccinations to healthcare workers since Dec. 17.

A drive-through site is planned for Kino Stadium that will be fully open Monday along with the site at Tucson Convention Center. University of Arizona should open by late next week. Another site is planned for Rillito Regional Park two or three weeks later, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said late Tuesday.

He said it could be the end of January before a Green Valley site is open, though residents can go to Tucson. However, under the county's news Accelerated Immunization Plan, those over 85 are prioritized, pushing others back one to two weeks. 

Those who want to use the Tucson sites can register online at Pima.gov/covid19vaccine — that registration site is likely to go live Wednesday, according to a county spokesman.

Meanwhile, a team is working to get sites in the Green Valley area set up quickly for an estimated 8,700 to 10,000 people who qualify under Phase 1B.

"Our goal is to be able to inoculate the population of Green Valley in Green Valley," said Debbie Kenyon, president of the Green Valley Council. "We are looking at establishing sites to go to beyond Walgreens, Safeway and Fry’s."

In a meeting Tuesday with county staff, Kenyon and representatives of other local agencies expressed concerns about registering and communicating with residents.

"I know people are very frustrated, we are very frustrated, but I am convinced with the people I have talked to today that we can get a plan in place to get a site or sites down here," she said. 

Pima County will not use the state’s registration system, which Huckelberry has called cumbersome. Anybody without access to a computer can call a phone number and get registered. The number is not yet available. 

Huckelberry said they will have a soft opening at TCC and Kino on Friday and will fully open Monday. Those getting vaccinations must register. 

Age groups

In a Monday memo to Kenyon, Huckelberry said the county is meeting daily with state and local partners to include Green Valley providers and locations in the 1B rollout, including United Community Health Center and private pharmacies in grocery stores and chains including CVS and Walgreens. Kenyon wants more options.

The county is waiting to see if Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital will receive state approval to administer the vaccine; it did not have that approval as of Tuesday. Hospital CEO Stephen Harris said Tuesday evening that they are awaiting delivery on Monday of a medical-grade refrigerator/freezer that will qualify them. He said he expects the hospital to be a distribution site, though no decisions have been made. 

Who’s included?

Phase 1B includes first responders (protective service), educators and child care workers and essential and critical industry workers. The county plans to divide 1B into two groups – 1B-1 and 1B-2.

Phase 1B-1 prioritizes people 75 and older, teachers, childcare and protective service workers. Phase 1B-2 covers essential workers and adults in congregate settings with chronic medical conditions.

The county estimated there are 275,000 to 325,000 eligible 1B recipients in Pima County. Huckelberry reported about 89,000 people age 75 and older live in the county, about 10 percent of them in Green Valley.

The county is recommending additional age prioritization. The county mortality rate is highest among those 85 years and older, and estimates the age group's county population numbers at about 20,000. The county will prioritize them into Phase 1B's first week; those 80-84 in the second week; and 75-79-year-olds the third week.

Under the county's new Accelerated Immunization Plan, it is working with the Pima Council on Aging and the state Medicaid agency to identify additional people to vaccinate who are not mobile or who are housebound.

Eligible people will register through online systems; Kenyon and others in Green Valley are concerned about whether Green Valley residents can navigate those systems and whether they will hold up under the crush of users expected to register.

The county plans to provide phone and limited on-site registration support for those without internet or computer access, though the details were not yet available. 

Supply and capacity

The county anticipates its six planned sites in the Tucson area could provide 12,200 vaccinations per day and potentially expand to 16,000 per day.

The next hurdle could be getting ahold of vaccinations. The state-allocated vaccine supply allows about 12,000 doses per week for Pima County. The county would need an additional 20,000 per week for the rest of January, increasing each month – 30,000 per week in February and 40,000 per week in March, Huckelberry said.

The county reported the six sites would reduce hours or close if the state doesn't provide additional doses.

Vaccination progress

Huckelberry said the state is centrally managing vaccine allocations to retail pharmacies and has not shared details with the county. 

As of Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 12 of the state's 15 counties are in Phase 1B or vaccinating priority populations within 1B. Pima County is among the three counties – with La Paz and Yavapai – still in Phase 1A.

Pima County has vaccinated 33,108 people so far and received all the doses – 80,525 – allocated by the state. While Pima County is still in Phase 1A, the state reported its vaccination rate – 3,169 per 100,00 people – as the third-highest statewide.

The county expects Phase 1B to run through March 31. People 65 and older are in Phase 1C. The county expects all three phases – covering about 720,000 eligible residents willing to receive the vaccine – completed within the next six months.

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732