BISBEE — As it becomes easier to acquire vaccines, Cochise Health and Social Services is looking to step up a program to reach the homebound and farm workers.
In the weekly COVID–19 update with the county Board of Supervisors Friday, CHSS director Alicia Thompson said her team was working with the University of Arizona’s mobile medical unit to provide vaccinations to those who cannot make it to one of the county’s points of distribution or a pharmacy to receive the shots.
With more than 1,000 farms in the county, the plan to reach all farm workers will require some help, she said. Chiricahua Community Health Clinics Inc. has been “doing a fabulous job with their outreach program to local farms. But, we know there is a much greater need.”
County health is also considering contracting with an organization to also help in the program, she said.
“We need to get the vaccine out to our communities as quickly as we can,” Thompson said. “Now that we can vaccinate people 18 years old and up, we want to be sure we are equitable in our vaccine distribution.”
To reach the homebound, Supervisor Ann English suggested the county use data available as CHSS serves homebound residents. She also recommended contacting the Southeastern Area Governments Organization Area Agency on Aging to fill in any gaps.
Now that the number of positive cases have fallen (the county had 65 last week) and more people have been vaccinated, the push is on to reach the far flung communities in the northeast corner of the county, like Bowie, San Simon and Portal. Vaccination distributions were held in those communities over the weekend.
So far, the county has received 50,400 doses of the Moderna two–shot vaccine and the Janssen single shot vaccine with 50,227 doses administered, said Craig Janiszewski, county Public Health Emergency Preparedness coordinator, to English and Supervisor Peggy Judd. Supervisor Tom Crosby did not attend.
“We utilized 99.7 percent of the vaccine doses we received,” he added.
Next week, the county is set to receive 6,200 doses, a mix of 5,400 of Moderna and 800 of Janssen, he said. The Janssen is becoming easier to acquire.
Though Gov. Doug Ducey opened up the vaccinations to anyone older than 16, the county is not prepared to provide vaccinations to those younger than 18, he said. The Moderna and Janssen vaccines, the only ones the county uses, have not been approved for people younger than 18. There is only one vaccine approved for that age group, which is made by Pfizer, and the county has not received any of those doses.
Janiszewski said, “Moderna is now in trials of children from 6 months old and up. So, things could change if it is approved.”
As of Thursday, nearly 60 percent of the residents 65 and older have been vaccinated, he noted. In the 55-to-64 age group, 37.4 percent have been vaccinated and 21 percent of the 45-to-54 age group. For the 35-to-44 age group, 15.4 percent have been vaccinated.
Though Ducey also ended the COVID–19 restrictions, Thompson, along with many health professionals, says it is important to maintain the CDC guidelines — wear a mask, wash hands frequently, practice social distancing — to prevent massive surges as happened in December from Thanksgiving and January during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. There are 27 states where cases are starting to increase again.
“We don’t want to repeat that,” Thompson said. “I ask that people be diligent with the mitigation strategies which have brought us to the point where we are today with our low numbers. We want to stay in low numbers and get to where we have no cases. In order to do that, we have to continue being smart when we are out and about. Regardless of what our mandates are, I think we should follow personal mandates to stay healthy and keep our family members safe. Wearing masks helps us do that.”
Judd said if people feel sick, they should take their temperatures and remain at home.
English and Judd asked for the meetings be held every two weeks rather than weekly unless the situation changes and more frequent meetings are necessary.
Camila Rochin, county public information officer, will continue posting information for the public which can be found on the county website and on social media.