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'Vaccines don’t do any good sitting in a freezer.' Ducey issues order to speed up vaccine distribution

The new order directs the Arizona Department of Health Services to implement a state-directed allocation model that has “a goal of a uniform approach."

ARIZONA, USA — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced an executive order on Wednesday aimed at speeding up the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Arizona.

The order, according to Ducey’s office, expands access to the vaccine by streamlining distribution and establishing additional vaccination sites.

Each county currently has their own implementation plans. The governor’s order directs the Arizona Department of Health Services to implement a state-directed allocation model that has “a goal of a uniform approach."

Per the order:

  1. ADHS shall establish and implement a state-directed vaccine allocator model for the purpose of rapidly expanding access to vaccinations for high risk and high priority Arizonans through a statewide approach.
  2. ADHS may take possession of any vaccine allocation and relocate it to provide statewide coverage for rapid distribution and administration.
  3. Private vaccination distribution sites shall only be established after consultation with ADHS.
  4. Local Public Health Departments shall (1) prominently display on their websites they phase their county is currently vaccinating and the location of vaccination sites, and (2) inform ADHS of any status change or phase change.

A spokesperson with Ducey’s office told 12 News earlier in the day that the pace of Arizona’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not going as quickly as they’d like and “the vaccine is not doing anyone good sitting in a refrigerator.”

"Across the country, news of delays in distributing the #COVID19 vaccine are being reported. While Arizona has avoided many of these issues, any delay in shots being given to Arizonans is unacceptable," Ducey wrote on Twitter

The state was projected to receive 384,000 doses, but only ended up with an allotment of 314,000. More than 57,000 doses of the vaccine have been given across the state as of Tuesday, according to ADHS in a Wednesday news conference. Most of these were the Pfizer vaccine.

There’s a need to rapidly expand access to those vaccination sites as well as working with other statewide providers,” said Dr. Cara Christ in Wednesday's press conference.  

The Maricopa County Public Health Department states that 36,121 doses have been administered in the state’s largest county as of Dec. 30, according to the department's vaccine dashboard. 

"Arizona’s goal is getting every available dose of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to the healthcare professionals and others who are part of Phase 1A, while working toward the most efficient rollout possible to the much larger populations in Phase 1B and beyond," AZDHS Communications Director Steve Elliott said.

Who will be eligible to get the vaccine? Eventually, everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. However, when the vaccine is first available there will be limited supply. Will winter visitors or other non-residents be eligible to get vaccinated if they fall into Phase 1 prioritization groups?

There are 70 initial vaccination sites statewide with additional site scheduled to be phased in as more vaccine becomes available in January and March next year. So far more than 650 providers, like Walgreens and CVS have been approved and are eligible to receive the vaccine when supplies become available. As of now more than 2,000 long-term care facilities have signed up for onsite clinic for residents and staff.  

AZDHS reported 5,267 new coronavirus cases and 78 new coronavirus deaths on their dashboard Wednesday morning as multiple COVID-19 metrics continue to rise. A total of 512,489 Arizonans have tested positive for the virus and 8,718 Arizonans have died due to it.

COVID-19 patients are using 61% of the state's ICU beds. Only 178 ICU beds in the entire state are not being used, 10% of the total amount.

53% of Arizona's inpatient beds are in use by COVID-19 patients. Only 698 inpatient beds are left in the state, 8% of the total amount.

Dr. Christ told reporters that next week the state will see an additional 300 traveling nurses to help with staffing concerns and by the end of January there should be an additional 900 across Arizona hospitals. 

Arizona is following a national trend of vaccination disappointment. To date, only 2.6 million have been vaccinated. Health experts say that’s not nearly enough to reach herd immunity by next summer.

RELATED: Coronavirus in Arizona on Dec. 30: 5,267 new cases, 78 new deaths reported