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Arizona’s health official mum on next essential workers eligible for vaccine

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

PHOENIX — Valley religious leaders received their second shots of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, trying to inspire their congregations to do the same.

“It is important that, as a member of the faith community, that the community sees us step up to take on leadership,” Rev. Benjamin Thomas, Sr., pastor of Historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, said.

However, it isn’t known when their congregations could receive the vaccine.

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ wouldn’t identify the next essential workers eligible for the shot.

“We are going to put a list together that will be ready before we move into (full) phase 1-B as a state,” Christ explained.

Christ is watching other states and how they classify essential workers, but it’s hard to prioritize so many professions — like transportation or grocery workers.

“Hopefully, by April or May, we would be able to bring in the general population,” Christ said. “As we continue to get more vaccine, we will expand our eligible groups.”

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego on Monday announced she wants her city’s workers vaccinated next because they often face the public.

Christ says some of them — and other Arizonans — may be eligible now, but they need to check with their local health departments for vaccines and appointments.

Suppliers in the meantime are overcoming weather-related vaccine shipment delays.

Christ hopes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots could arrive next week. The FDA is reviewing them in the coming days for emergency use authorization.

The amounts of COVID-19 vaccine doses and outreach determine when Arizona moves on to the next phase of distribution.

The state’s health department aims for 60% vaccination rates in each target group first, but they’re not always accurate.

“So you could be 65 years and older, but you could also be a healthcare worker that was vaccinated in 1-A,” Christ explained.

The state-run mass vaccination sites at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the University of Arizona, and the forthcoming one in the East Valley won’t run 24/7 like the State Farm Stadium vaccine site until more doses arrive.

“State Farm Stadium is still not at the capacity we would like it to be,” Christ said. “We still have room to add appointments.”

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

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

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