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Ducey issues order to speed up COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Arizona

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday aimed at speeding up distribution of the coronavirus vaccine in Arizona.

Ducey’s order requires the Arizona Department of Health Services implement a state-directed allocation model and uniformed approach to vaccinate the state’s high-risk and high-priority groups.

The order comes as state health director Dr. Cara Christ said only about 20% of eligible individuals in the state’s top priority group — about 57,000 of 275,000 — have been vaccinated as of Wednesday.

The state has received about 315,000 doses since distribution began earlier in December.

“Any delay in the vaccine getting to Arizonans, any dose that sits in a freezer rather than reaching the arm of a health care worker or long-term care resident, carries too great a cost,” Ducey said in a press release.

“This is a health emergency, and we need all levels of government and our health system operating as such. Vaccines don’t do any good sitting in a freezer.”

Currently, each of Arizona’s 15 counties have their own plans for how to distribute the vaccine, which typically comes in two doses.

Christ said her team is already beginning to implement Ducey’s plan for a uniform model, with more progress expected by the start of next week.

Before Ducey issued his order, Christ said more people were expected to receive their first vaccine doses next week than in previous weeks.

Vaccine distribution began in Arizona two weeks ago for people in phase 1A, which includes front-line health care staff, emergency medical workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

“We want it in people’s arms so we are going to continue to work,” Christ said during a press conference.

Coronavirus case and hospitalization numbers continue to look grim in Arizona despite the vaccine rollout.

On Wednesday, Arizona health officials reported 5,267 coronavirus cases and 78 additional deaths, bringing the state’s documented totals to 512,489 COVID-19 infections and 8,718 fatalities.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICU beds increased to 1,076 on Tuesday, the sixth consecutive day with a record high.

Statewide, suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients took up 53% of all inpatient beds and 61% of all ICU beds, both records.

Overall, inpatient beds were 91% and ICU beds were 90% full.

Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital system, is pausing all elective surgeries starting Friday to handle the rise in coronavirus patients.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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