BISBEE — As of June 7, Cochise County has dispensed 102,354 doses of vaccine resulting in 44.4 percent of the county’s population reaching full vaccination, a rate higher than the state’s at 36.9 percent.
Craig Janiszewski, county Public Health Emergency Preparedness coordinator, gave the encouraging news to Supervisor Ann English, who was the only supervisor in attendance at the Friday, June 4, bimonthly COVID–19 update work session.
With the Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old, 1,005 county children have been vaccinated, he added. Most of those receiving the vaccinations now are from age 12 to 44.
Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined the COVID–19 vaccines can be administered at the same time as other school and higher education required immunizations, Janiszewski expects to see an increase over the summer in the number of children receiving the vaccine.
Though 48,952 people have been fully vaccinated in the county, there is still a long way to go to reach herd immunity, estimated to be at least 70 percent of the population by the CDC. Cochise is doing better than many Arizona counties.
Even so, county public information officer Camila Rochin plans to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine through public service announcements by community leaders, said County Administrator Richard Karwaczka.
According to the CDC, “COVID–19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. These vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID–19 vaccines are safe.
“The vaccines met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization. Over 294 million doses of COVID–19 vaccine have been given in the U.S. from Dec. 14, 2020, through May 31, 2021.”
Even though more than 138 million people in the U.S. have received the vaccinations as of June 5 with few problems, there are many who are still hesitant to get the inoculations, states the CDC.
It is this vaccine hesitancy Rochin and the Cochise Health and Social Services COVID–19 team want to overcome and they think the announcements from trusted sources backed up by information from the CDC will help convince those reluctant residents to protect themselves from a virus that could cause them and their families and friends harm or even death.
Rochin already sent out one flier to all county residents with ample COVID–19 and vaccination information, but she is planning a second to tackle vaccine hesitancy, Karwaczka said.
The program to reach those homebound residents is moving along with the help of the Southeastern Area Governments Organization’s Agency on Aging, Banner Home Health, Chiricahua Community Health Centers Inc., and numerous other caregiver partners, said Janiszewski.
“Anyone who has not yet been offered a vaccination can just call CHSS and we’ll get them on a list,” he added.
Another segment of the county economy and workforce now allowed to get vaccinations are those from Mexico who regularly come to the county through the Naco and Douglas ports of rntry every day, English said. She suggested points of distribution at the ports be established for that purpose.
“We can now vaccinate anyone in our state,” English said. “In the beginning, we couldn’t due to the contracts with the federal government and the state of the supply chain that was limited at first. But now we can share it with our neighbors. We want to do anything we can to keep our citizens safe and this is one way we can do that.”
County epidemiologist Martha Montano’s report noted positive cases are declining after an uptick in April, particularly in the Sierra Vista zip codes 85636 and 85650 when 175 people tested positive. In May, the number dropped to just 44. She said it was normal to see more cases in Sierra Vista as it has the most people.
Hereford experienced 35 positive cases in April, but then just 11 in May, followed by Douglas with 25 in April and four in May. Benson had 13 in April and five in May with Willcox at nine in April and eight in May. Bisbee had eight in April and only two in May, according to a chart she prepared. The cases in other zip codes in the county were negligible.
The return to tracking cases by zip codes allows CHSS to see any upward trends, so the county can mobilize resources to contain the virus, she added.
“If we saw something strange, like a great increase in Benson, we would try to determine through contact tracing where the cases were, like a business,” she said. “It can help us direct our resources where they are most needed.”
For information on COVID-19 and the vaccinations, visit the website: https://covid-cochisehealth.hub.arcgis.com/ or call CHSS at 520-432–9400 or 844-542–8201.