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Pinal County seeing coronavirus vaccine appointments book up fast

PHOENIX — The public health director in Pinal County is pleading for more coronavirus vaccines as vaccination sites struggle to keep up with demand.

“Unfortunately, with the limited doses that we have, the appointments get booked up fast,” Pinal County Health Services Director Dr. Tascha Spears said. “This is creating tremendous frustration, anger, and stress for people who are trying to get an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The county has gotten 29,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Spears said 10,000 of those were second doses. They are distributed among 26 vaccination sites.

“We were able to order 3,500 doses for this current week that we’re in, and much of that shipment has not yet arrived,” Spears said.

That caused appointments for vaccinations at public health clinics in the county to be fully booked by Wednesday evening.

The county is currently vaccinating people in phase 1A and phase 1B-1. That includes health care workers, long term care residents, first reconsiders and residents over the age of 75.

Those two phases combined total more than 75,000 people.

Spears said with the county getting just 2,000 to 3,000 vaccine doses a week, they’re not yet able to move on to the next phase, 1B-2, which covers people 65 to 74 years old and those with high-risk medical conditions.

“Clearly, with this amount of vaccine supply, it will take us several weeks to get to the 1B-2 group,” she said.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors has turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ for help.

They sent them a letter to “express the critical need for increased doses of COVID-19 vaccine allocations to Pinal County.”

Spears said she has also relayed that message to the state health department.

For now, she’s recommending residents who can’t get an appointment through the county to go to one of the two state-run mass vaccination sites, which are providing vaccines to those 65 and older.

However, even those sites at State Farm Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium are running out of vaccines.

All of the nearly 150,000 vaccine appoints at those sites for February were filled up Tuesday, about 14 hours after they became available.

Christ said in a press release that when more doses become available, more appointments will be offered.

“The only limitation to how much we can expand our capacity is the number of doses our federal partners make available to Arizona,” she said.

“When more vaccine is available, we will further ramp up our efforts and provide more appointments at the state’s two vaccination sites.”

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