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Expert questions equity of vaccine distribution

Vaccine
Posted at 5:49 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 15:53:20-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Getting a COVID-19 shot seems to be a challenge for anyone who qualifies, but it may be especially difficult for those in rural areas or those who face other obstacles.

Counties seem to focus their resources in more populated cities, and two of the state's only mass vaccination sites are in the phoenix area.

“If you live in Tempe it's a 15-minute drive,” said University of Arizona Public Health Researcher Dr. Joe Gerald. “But if you live in Yuma it's a 6-to-7-hour drive. “That doesn't meet the burden of equal opportunity.”

Dr. Gerald says the system seems to prioritize state pods, and that could lead to a lot of people being left without equal access to immunization.

“It’s going to be the elderly, modest or low education, lower incomes and those who are displaced from the city center.”

Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia says they have partners and pop-up sites that help cover rural areas, but the vaccine supply is not always there.

‘As far down as Amado and as far west as Ajo and east as Corono de Tucson and Arivaca, but we need the vaccine supply in order to do it.”

Gerald says the drive-thru style sites are also not designed for people who cannot afford a car.

“it’s a system really designed for suburbanites driving your car through and then going back home.”

Gerald says the state needs to do more to explain where vaccines are going, and if they are being distributed with equity in mind.

“There is a lack of transparency about how the decisions are being made and how fair it seems to be for Arizonans.”