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Arizona officials concerned about vaccine supply as rollout expands

Dr. Cara Christ, right, director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, receives the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 at the Arizona Department of Health Services State Laboratory from nurse Machrina Leach, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – As Arizona forges ahead with plans to expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution, top state officials are concerned about running out of doses.

“We had a conversation yesterday which I didn’t think we were going to have any time soon,” Gov. Doug Ducey told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday.

“There was some concern by my team that we may run out of vaccines.”

Ducey said the state, which opened a high-capacity 24-hour vaccine site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale this week, is getting shots into arms “as quickly as they’re coming in” from the federal government.

“We don’t want to run out of vaccines, but I’m pressing really hard on the administration and the private sector to get us more vaccines to the state,” he said.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, also mentioned supply concerns Thursday.

“We have asked our federal partners for additional vaccine because we are very pleased with the demand and the number of Arizonans that want to get vaccinated,” she told The Mike Broomhead Show.

Christ said the 42,000 doses allocated for the State Farm Stadium site are all spoken for four days after registration opened.

“We are planning on using all of that and more this week and getting that next weekly allocation next week,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of demand, and so we’re trying to ensure that everyone who has an appointment gets their vaccine here at State Farm Stadium.”

The Glendale stadium location is all booked through January and has not yet started accepting reservations for February.

But on Thursday, the state announced plans to open a second mass vaccination site on Feb. 1, this one at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. However, slots could be limited when registration opens at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“The number of appointments that are available is going to be completely dependent on the number of doses that we will have,” Christ said. “So we’re still working to see what those projections look like.”

The demand will only go higher after the state said it was lowering the age limit for current eligibility by 10 years to 65.

That update was made after federal authorities changed their recommendations for prioritizing shots while supply is limited.

According to state officials, 85% of the Arizonans who have died from COVID-19 and more than half who have been hospitalized have been 65 or older.

Most of Arizona’s counties, including Maricopa, are in the priority segment of phase 1B. That group initially consisted of educators, child care workers, law enforcement and adults 75 and older.

The state’s age cutoff will be lowered to 65 on Tuesday, adding about 750,000 Arizonans to the eligible segment.

Anybody in Arizona in priority phase 1B or phase 1A is eligible for a shot at a state-run facility.

“Keep in mind, not every county is in phase 1B in Arizona,” Christ said. “And given the limited resources, not every county may be able to prioritize the same way that the state is, so it’s really on a county-by-county basis.”

Adding to the logistical complexity of the rollout, the two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization in the United States require two doses spaced several weeks apart.

When Maricopa County entered phase 1B this week, appointments at the five county-run sites were quickly snapped up because many slots were already taken by people in phase 1A getting their second shots.

Maricopa County said Thursday it was not dropping the cutoff age below 75 because of the limited supply.

Availability can vary as conditions change, so anybody who couldn’t find an appointment should check back regularly. As of Thursday afternoon, the county’s registration web page showed limited availability at two sites: the Arizona State Fairgrounds and Banner Sun City West.

When supplies are more abundant, plans call for vaccines to be readily available through pharmacies, doctor’s offices, urgent care centers and other options, like with flu shots.

The Arizona health department has a vaccine-finder page with a statewide map of active and pending locations and links to registration websites.

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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