First rounds of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine could make it to frontline workers week of Dec. 14

Posted at 4:20 PM, Nov 24, 2020

All signs point to Pfizer being the first vaccine to get FDA approval.

Once it happens, two of the state's largest hospital systems are prepared to receive hundreds of thousands of doses in a matter of weeks.

“We expect that vaccine will be in significant numbers that we can reach the tier 1a,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer for Banner Health.

Dr. Bessel is talking about the state's priority population. In the roll-out plan submitted to the federal government by state health officials. Tier 1a consists largely of medical workers of all kinds, emergency first responders, even school nurses.

A group that’s estimated to make up nearly 470 thousand Arizonans that have been on the frontlines since the beginning.

“We believe the earliest possible date that we’d receive vaccine would be the week of December 14,” said Dr. Bessel.

By then, they hope to have at least three mass vaccination sites set up and staffed. The Phoenix Fairgrounds, already being used as a drive-up testing site, will soon dole out vaccines as well.

“We are also providing flu vaccines there and we feel like we will be prepared to provide COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes,” said Dr. Bessel.

Those being vaccinated will require two shots, 28 days apart.

Dr. Michael White with Valleywise Health says the first round could take some time.

“We’re going to see this vaccination plan over a number of months,” said Dr. White.

The next phase will see those in tier 1b getting vaccinated.

That includes other essential workers like police, teachers, and grocery workers.

It also includes those at the highest risk of virus, like long-term care facilities, people with underlying health conditions, and those over 65. A group that makes up a whopping 3.8 million Arizonans.

“We’ll be responsible for the northeast part of Maricopa County,” said Dr. Stephanie Jackson, Senior Vice President of HonorHealth.

She says the hospital system will also be running a drive-up vaccination site in partnership with Maricopa County Health officials.

“We’re going to have a location that’s going to be near the 101 and I-17 and we estimate we’ll be able to vaccinate a thousand folks per day,” said Dr. Jackson.

The hope is to vaccinate around 15,000 people with the initial supply from that location.

With millions of doses set to be given out across the state over the next few months, she’s urging the public to have patience.

“Your average healthy person who doesn’t work in one of these unique situations is probably going to be more late spring early summer,” said Dr. Jackson.