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State officials playing the blame game over low vaccination numbers

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials
Posted at 4:47 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 20:39:09-05

As state health officials admit the vaccine rollout is going slower than they’d hoped, some are now coming forward calling out the state saying it was their scheduling systems that led to lower numbers.

Three of Maricopa County's five vaccination sites have churned out shots for two weeks now.

But two PODs caught ABC15's attention this weekend as volunteers seemingly manned empty locations.

“They were all set up and ready to go, they had (the) vaccine(s), they had staff, they had workers. They had cones set up in the parking lot and nobody was showing up,” said former state health director Will Humble.

As of Thursday, nearly 47,000 people in Maricopa County have been vaccinated.

But according to state officials, it’s not enough.

“What we’ve identified is there’s a need to rapidly expand access to those vaccination sites,” said Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ during a Wednesday news conference.

The Governor's office seemingly put the blame of inefficiency on Maricopa County health leaders saying it was their prescreening process that confused those signing up.

“It makes no sense to blame somebody else or another entity. In this case, the governor in fact blaming the county health department when in fact it was the state health department's computer system that was defective,” said Humble.

Humble says the two sites seeing low turnout were using the state scheduling system to set appointments while the other three successful sites used their own.

He says healthcare workers easily navigated the County's prescreening site but fell through the cracks soon after.

Healthcare workers can go to the prescreening website and simply fill out their names and a few other details followed by four drop-down menus to select exposure risk, place of employment, type of job, and health conditions.

“It was a defective program and so all these healthcare workers were trying to get appointments to get their vaccination and were either not given any information back or bizarrely, were told to go get their vaccine in Show Low, or Snowflake or Globe,” said Humble.

Humble estimates the glitch cost thousands not to receive the shots over the last few weeks.

An email from Maricopa County Health to state health leaders reiterated that the issues with the state vaccine management system “dramatically slowed down Maricopa County's vaccine operations."

According to another email sent Thursday morning, the system is now fixed and sites are now scheduled to full capacity.

“It’s the state health department's fault, they should just own it and fix it,” said Humble. “We know everyone is on the same team here and wants to get this vaccine to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”

The State Health Department issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“The state’s vaccine management system, developed and tested in concert with local partners, is and has been functioning properly. It has been used without issues in most counties. We have worked closely with Maricopa County to address an interoperability issue between the county’s prescreening tool and the statewide vaccine management system. We look forward to the benefits this advance will have for the pace and convenience of COVID-19 vaccination. It’s worth noting that two of the four large COVID-19 vaccination providers in Maricopa County aren’t handling registration through the state’s vaccine management system, which we make available as a convenience”