TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Starting on Saturday, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens will offer Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot in Southern Arizona. The Pima County Health Department hopes to start distributing boosters by Monday.
The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) approved revised guidance this week in determining the groups eligible to receive the Pfizer booster:
SHOULD receive a Pfizer booster
* People 65+ and residents of long-term care facilities
* People 50-64 with underlying health conditions
MAY receive a Pfizer booster
* People 18-49 with underlying health conditions
* People 18-64 at increased risk due to exposure at work or school
In addition, only those who received their second Pfizer shot at least six months ago are eligible. Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen says those who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines should wait until those boosters are approved.
The booster rollout presents a new challenge for Cullen and the County Health Department.
Taking into account Pima County’s vaccination numbers in the spring, Cullen estimates Pima County will need 100,000 booster shots each month through January in order to cover those who are eligible, with the county able to provide 60,000 of those and pharmacies handling the rest.
Cullen says the county should have more concrete plans by early next week.
“I can tell you I’m not sleeping again because I’m trying to figure this out,” she said with a laugh during her Friday press conference.
“I think the question that remains is whether we should, and or will need to stand up a larger point of distribution, similar to what we had in the past when we had four points of distribution,” Cullen went on to explain. “We are actively looking at that. And by Monday I believe we will have made a decision on whether we will do that or not.”
Cullen says the county’s intensive care unit bed capacity is at less than five percent, largely because of staffing shortages. She says for that reason, hospitals won’t be booster sites for now.
“The clinical system is stretched,” she said. “So to ask the clinical system to stand up large points of [booster] distribution seems to fly in the face of what we want the clinical system to do, which is provide clinical care.”
Cullen also says the health department is still putting a major emphasis on getting more unvaccinated people to roll up their sleeves. She says the county has been administering about 9,000 shots per week in September.