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Former surgeon general says Arizona’s vaccine troubles similar nationwide

(Twitter Photo/ @AZDHS)

PHOENIX – A former U.S. Surgeon General said the country’s coronavirus vaccination execution feels like “50 states acting like 50 separate countries” instead of a cohesive unit because of a lack of former leadership and guidance from the federal level.

“There was a lack of direction federally. There was everything from conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccinators, so a lot of complicating factors in each state city has had to deal with,” Dr. Richard Carmona told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Thursday.

Carmona, who works with a team at the University of Arizona to study coronavirus trends, said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ have done the best that they can given the circumstances.

He noted manpower and infrastructure issues have plagued the whole country’s coronavirus vaccination execution; however, Arizona has a unique set of challenges in handling two metropolitan areas and a smattering of rural communities where it’s difficult to deliver the vaccines to.

“It’s not a simple issue,” Carmona said. “It’s extraordinarily complex one that it made it more difficult not having the appropriate leadership at the federal level to help guidance of these programs.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arizona currently ranks 27th in the country in COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed per 100,000 people; however, the state ranks 43rd when it comes for the number of doses that have been administered per 100,000.

ADHS and local agencies have worked to speed up distribution of the coronavirus vaccines. ADHS has launched two mass vaccination sites at State Farm Stadium in Glendale and Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Tempe.

Vaccination appointments are being snatched up as quickly as they’re posted. On Tuesday, 150,000 slots for February vaccinations at State Farm Stadium filled up within 14 hours.

Despite the hiccups, it’s vital to get the majority of the population vaccinated.

“It’s best that we all get vaccinated, unless you have a legitimate reason,” Carmona siad. “There may be a religious preferences, maybe allergy, but that’s a small part of the population the concerning part is when we have up to 30% or more of the population deciding they don’t trust the government or they don’t want to do it.”

The coronavirus vaccination woes continue as Arizona continues to see high coronavirus metrics in the state. Carmona said he and his team are encouraged by the slight decrease or plateau in certain coronavirus metrics, like the number of ventilators and beds in use, coronavirus cases and fatalities.

“For now, it’s looking better,” Carmona said. “I hope we can sustain this, but based on the fact that we are really not even close to the amount of immunizations we need and the high degree of transmissibility, that would tell me that this is going to continue for some time.”

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