ARIZONA, USA — More than 1.8 million Arizonans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, making up about 25% of the state’s population.
However, appointments to get the vaccine are taking longer to fill up as the state says the amount of vaccine available is starting to meet how many people are wanting to get it.
State to shift vaccine strategies in coming months
Appointments at state vaccinations sites used to fill up in a matter of hours, now they’re taking days to fill up in the Valley and appointments are remaining open in Tucson and Yuma.
On Monday, the state had 18,000 appointments left for state-run vaccination sites from its weekly Friday drop.
Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services said it’s a sign that the supply of the vaccine is starting to meet the demand for it.
“We know we’re going to have work to do to get to herd immunity,” Christ said. “We know that there’s vaccine hesitancy.”
Christ said that two indoor sites will come online next week.
Gila River Arena will take over operations for State Farm Stadium, and WestWorld in Scottsdale will open as a new walk-up vaccination site run by the state.
Due to where supply and demand sit now, Christ said the state has paused opening up other potential sites.
Christ explained that, right now, the plan is to keep the big state-run sites open through May or June. However, that could change if there’s a change in demand.
Christ added that the state will move further away from the large vaccination sites to more community-based options.
“Hopefully reducing the barriers of transportation,” Christ said.
Christ hopes primary care providers will start getting their hands on the vaccine, and that they’ll have it in time for a potential booster shot could be necessary for the vaccine.
“It would just become a normal, routine thing just like your annual flu shot,” Christ said.
Pfizer CEO says booster shots may be necessary
Pfizer’s CEO announced this week a third shot may be likely six months to a year after people get their vaccine, adding a potential annual shot could be likely as well.
“We’re going to have to build up that immunity and maintain that immunity,” Dr. David Engelthaler, Director of the Infectious Disease Wing at TGen.
Engelthaler said the idea of a booster shot is not abnormal. For example, the flu shot comes around every year, Tdap booster shots are recommended at different intervals for people, among other vaccines.
Engelthaler said a booster shot for COVID could help in other ways as well.
“We may get boosters that also cover new variants, so to make sure we’re protected against all the COVID strains that are out there,” Engelthaler said.
Engelthaler said the virus is likely to stay with us for the future, which is why continuous immunity will be needed.
“I think this virus is just too effective at transmitting and finding that next susceptible person,” Engelthaler said.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains paused, Arizona altering plans
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains paused so the State of Arizona is altering plans to get the community vaccinated.
The single-shot vaccine was paused by the CDC this week after six people out of almost 7 million shots got an extremely rare type of blood clot.
Christ said the department of health has not received any reports of this issue from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Arizona.
The shot has been used in situations like rural communities, and home-bound patients, where a single dose shot made it easier and faster to get more people vaccinated against the virus.
Christ said the state is working with providers in hopes appointments for people’s shots don’t have to be canceled altogether.
“We’re trying to replace the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with Pfizer and Moderna. So we’re working very closely with our county health departments to see which departments need that type of vaccine,” Christ said.
Christ added if you’re currently scheduled to get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re encouraged to book a different appointment for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine while the J&J shot remains paused.
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