Rural Arizona hospital frustrated by smaller vaccine allotment

Copper Queen Community Hospital says it's ready to vaccinate
Vaccines in Cochise County.jpg
Posted at 2:34 PM, Jan 31, 2021

BISBEE, Ariz. (KGUN) — Frustration is building at one rural Arizona hospital as vaccine allotment shrinks.

Leaders at Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee said they are going from vaccinating hundreds a day to just giving second doses- and at this point, they said they won’t be able to vaccine teachers and those 75 and older in a timely manner.

The county's allotment will only be made up of 1,100 vaccines and only 100 will be first-time doses.

“It’s such a shame that we were ready to go. We've got patients calling our clinics, all four of them combined have over 700 calls a day. Most of those calls were patients looking for ways to access the vaccine," explained Robert Seamon, CEO of Copper Queen Community Hospital.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) tells KGUN9 rural areas, like Cochise County, are given the Moderna vaccine and this week the federal government sent Arizona fewer doses than usual.

"Every dose of Moderna vaccine the federal government has allocated to Arizona for next week has been allocated to rural counties according to the formula that has been used to date. However, next week’s amount of Moderna vaccine made available by the federal government is smaller than it has been. Rural counties asked to receive the Moderna vaccine because it doesn't have the extremely challenging storage requirements and large lot sizes of the Pfizer vaccine," wrote Steve Elliot, communications director for ADHS.

However, the hospital says it feels Cochise County is getting the short end of the stick.

“The problem is, vaccines are going to larger counties such as Maricopa County, who run their vaccines cause 24/7,” said Glenda Trevino, employee health nurse, and educator at Copper Queen Community Hospital.

That’s a sting to the hospital who says Cochise County is outperforming Maricopa County on getting vaccines into arms.

“We are 21% higher than Maricopa County, which is the majority of the population,” explained Dr. Edward Miller, chief medical officer.

The county has held several vaccine events where hundreds of rural Arizonans have received shots.

The desperation for vaccines is there, according to the hospital. However, leaders explained driving to one of the state-run vaccine pods isn't realistic.

"Most people do not have reliable transportation and when you're dealing with the elderly who have problems with the mobility they can't be sitting for long periods of time. So that five-hour trip to Glendale can be extended up to an eight-hour nine-hour trip," said Trevino.

This comes just as the hospital says it was emailed a survey asking them to account for all doses of the vaccine or it will have to return doses to the state.

“When we get the vaccines, we give the vaccine. The only time that we have the stockpile is when they get delivered. And then within a day or so they are administered. And in the email and I forget even a few that came from it said well we also consider your future allocations,” said Seamon.

The state said the survey is part of a recent executive order that requires vaccine providers, like Copper Queen-to account for the doses they've given and have not yet given to the community.

"Governor Ducey’s recent executive order requires vaccine providers to account for doses administered and appointments scheduled for doses that have yet to be administered. If the state determines that the provider has surplus doses without a plan for administering it promptly, ADHS can reallocate that vaccine to ensure it is administered as soon as possible. We are reviewing reports submitted by vaccine providers and will follow up with those that express concerns," wrote Elliot.