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Valley vaccine sites seeing increase in turnout

PODs at high schools in Phoenix and Tempe both saw higher turnout than expected on Saturday.

PHOENIX — As of this weekend, data from Arizona's Department of Health Services shows at least 52% of Arizonans have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

It's a number that's been gradually rising all summer, after an initial spike in early spring when the vaccine became more accessible to more age groups.

But now, some vaccination sites are reporting more turnout than they've seen over the past few months.

"Probably had about three times the amount we thought we’d have today," said Sean McDonald, Assistant Superintendent for District Operations, Safety & Student Support, for Tempe Union High School District.

A spokesperson for Phoenix Union High School District also told 12 News they had a really high turnout for their POD at Metro Tech High School Saturday.

McDonald said they've been running the POD at Tempe High School for about 8 or 9 months and are starting to see an uptick in people coming in for shots.  

On Saturday, he said they got about 150 people compared to the usual 50.

"Not only have we had students come in, but their entire families have come in."

One of those students was 12-year-old Chase Raboin.  He was getting his second dose at Tempe High School Saturday, the last in his family to get vaccinated.

"To stay safe," Chase explained. "I don’t want to get COVID because of the Delta variant which has been going around."

Health experts say the Delta variant can spread 2 to 3 times faster than the original strain of COVID and it's one of the reasons there could be a rise in COVID-19 infections.

Although younger people like Chase are becoming eligible for vaccines, Valley schools are still experiencing outbreaks as kids head back to class.

J.O. Combs school district announced that Ellsworth Elementary in San Tan Valley would be shutting down next week after nearly four dozen students tested positive.

Hamilton High School in Chandler planned to change COVID-19 protocols after reporting more than two dozen students and staff members infected.

And last week, Desert Vista in Ahwatukee canceled football practice after reporting an outbreak on their team.

Tempe Union plans to keep hosting PODs on weekends and will even offer sites at schools during the week to hopefully keep the vaccine rate going up, reducing the chance for any potential outbreak.

"I think it’s our responsibility," McDonald explained. "This is not political for us. This is making sure our kids can stay in school. They can be safe."

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