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Arizona health officials lay out plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

(AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

PHOENIX — With the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine expected to be available in Arizona this month, state health officials on Friday laid out a plan for distribution and the priority list for those wanting to receive the treatment.

The plan is a more solidified — but not final — version of a draft the Arizona Department of Health Services posted in October in preparation for vaccine distribution.

Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director, revealed that the state is projected to receive more than 380,000 doses by the end of December, with the first batch of about 60,000 doses expected to arrive the week of Dec. 13.

The initial doses will be reserved for individuals in the top priority group, which is estimated to include about 400,000 eligible Arizonans. That includes health care workers, long-term care residents who are considered high risk and staff at those facilities.

The vaccine is expected to be available for those in that group within 48 hours after they are received, according to Christ.

“It’s a lot of people with limited vaccine coming in,” Christ said during a press briefing. “We are going to provide those high-risk groups with that opportunity by the start of the year.”

More than 1,000 provider locations in the state have started the onboarding process for vaccine distribution and about 350 locations have been approved for it.

Most sites will directly receive vaccine shipments, according to Christ.

Christ also wants as many mass vaccinations sites as possible. She hopes they are similar to the large, drive-in sites that are currently being used to test for COVID-19.

Quicker distribution would likely result in those in the secondary priority group — notably educators — getting access to the vaccine in a more timely manner.

Those in secondary priority group also include essential workers such as law enforcement personnel and food service employees.

The expectation is for those in the secondary group to have access to the vaccine by early January.

That’s all contingent on how quickly the state is able to start vaccinating the initial group and when authorization for emergency use is approved.

“We anticipate getting the vaccine to some of our highly prioritized groups probably around the beginning of January,” Christ said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are the two that will be initially available to Arizonans.

Both vaccines require two doses that will need to be administered either 21 or 28 days apart to ensure full vaccination.

Christ expects “hundreds of millions” of vaccinations to be available to the general public “by March or April.”

“That’s when we feel it will finally be open to the general population,” Christ said.

Arizona reported 5,680 new coronavirus cases and 64 more deaths on Friday, putting the state’s totals at 352,101 COVID-19 infections and 6,885 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

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