The state’s decision to open up COVID-19 inoculations to people who are between 65 and 74 years of age has complicated matters for the county’s health department and likely the public, officials said Thursday.
The main issue, said Cochise Health and Social Services Director Alicia Thompson, is that currently there are not enough doses of the Moderna vaccine to be put into people’s arms.
Thursday afternoon, a frustrated Thompson said health departments across Arizona learned on Thursday morning of the state’s decision to add more people to the Phase 1B priority list. The vaccine had been given to people who are 75 and older, as well as individuals from Phase 1A who have not gotten their shot.
Thompson said the rest of the people who qualify under Phase 1B — law enforcement, firefighters, corrections officers, teachers, child care personnel, essential services/critical industry workers and adults residing in congregate living facilities such as homeless shelters — will begin getting their vaccine on Jan. 23.
But Wednesday, the state announced it would be adding people who are 65 to 74 years of age to that group. Additionally, individuals under that age bracket were told they could begin registering this week so they can get inoculated next week, the Associated Press reported. The state said it is following “updated recommendations from federal health officials,” the AP article shows.
“We had recommended against doing that,” Thompson said.
As a result, local health officials are struggling, scrambling and working as fast as possible to administer the vaccine.
Thompson said her office has been flooded with phone calls from angry citizens who are frustrated and confused with the process. The Herald/Review has been hit with a deluge of calls from readers who say they are having a tough time registering and getting someone to answer the hotline that was set up last week for people who are 75 and older.
“They (the state) are adding people in the 65-to-74 age group and there is no vaccine available,” Thompson said. “I can’t stress this enough — our ability to vaccinate depends on the number of doses (of the vaccine) that we receive.”
Despite the challenges, Thompson said she wanted to give a “shout out” to the teams that are administering the vaccine across Cochise County. She said so far 1,413 people 75 and older have been vaccinated. Thompson said that group and that group only will continue receiving shots until Jan. 22.
On Jan. 23, the rest of the individuals who qualify under Phase 1B, as well as people between the ages of 65 and 74, can begin getting inoculated, Thompson said. However, it will all hinge on how many doses of Moderna vaccine Cochise County receives.
“I want people to know that just because they’ve opened it up to more people does not mean we have the vaccines available,” Thompson said. “It’s sad. I wish I could wave a magic wand and produce 50,000 doses of vaccine, but I can’t.”