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Pima County expected to give first vaccines Thursday

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 5:02 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 08:13:53-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The first round of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Arizona Monday and Pima County is expected to get 11,000 doses this week.

The first of the vaccine doses could be given as soon as Thursday, but only to health care workers.

Tucson Medical Center and Banner University Medical Center will both be receiving the vaccines. Banner's vaccines will begin at 10 a.m.

“Banner – University Medicine is proud to be part of the team helping to administer the vaccine to all eligible health care workers in Pima County. Thanks to the leadership in Pima County, even though supplies will be limited, Pima County health care workers and eventually, the community in general, will have access to an additional layer of protection, along with masking and distancing, to help reduce the spread of the virus,” said Joshua Lee, MD, Banner – University Medicine physician executive, in a statement.

The vaccines will be strategically deployed to area medical facilities.

“Those decisions were made in conjunction with our hospitals to determine where were the most logical places for us to initially set up for vaccination,” explained Dr. Theresa Cullen, Pima County health director.

Spencer Graves, the county's health logistics lead, explained who out of the healthcare workers be vaccinated first.

“We need to make sure that those that are most exposed to COVID-19 on daily basis are the first ones that get it,” he said.

As for the rest of Pima County distribution is planned as follows:

Phase One (Dec. 2020- Spring 2021):

  • Category 1a:
    • Healthcare workers, including EMS
    • Long-term care Facility Staff and residents
  • Category 1b:
    • All other healthcare workers
    • Adults in congregate settings
    • Law enforcement
    • Teachers and childcare workers
    • Essential workers
  • Category 1c:
    • 65 and older
    • High-risk/medical conditions

Phase Two (Spring 2021-Summer 2021):

  • Additional people at high-risk
  • General population

Phase Three (Summer 2021-beyond):

  • Anyone else remaining
  • More general population

Meanwhile, Moderna is expected to arrive around December 21 and health officials expect the additional vaccines to take care of all in the first category.

“We should be able to have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone who is in this highest priority group for 1a health care worker," said Dr. Cullen.

The county’s vaccine-preventable illness manager says she knows there are concerns about the vaccine — but says that all steps were followed and passed to receive approval.

“I feel that this vaccine is safe,” said Crystal Rambaud.

Health leaders remind the community that just because the vaccine is rolling out doesn’t mean the fight is over as Pima County is seeing a surge of cases.

“We can't let our guard down at this time, even with the vaccine. You have to keep doing what we can to stop the spread and mitigate the disease,” urged Lucio Guerrero, Tucson Medical Center.