PHOENIX — The state shared details on their COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan Friday, which includes prioritizing frontline medical workers, and allocating the limited number of doses to different counties based on population.
The first 58,500 doses should start arriving as early as December 13 and will be split between Maricopa and Pima County healthcare workers.
Most Arizona counties will not have vaccine doses until the week of December 20. The state expects its second shipment of 189,600 doses that week. At that point, each county and Native American tribe, community, or nation will receive their first doses.
The vaccine requires two separate shots, and people must come back a few weeks later for a booster in order to achieve the desired immunity.
"It's really going to be very telling in the next few weeks as for how the logistics are actually operating and where are we finding hiccups. Hopefully [AZDHS] exercised these scenarios to, kind of, get out some of the kinks before we actually receive the vaccine," said ABC15 analyst and former Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency Management Wendy Smith Reeve.
Arizona Department of Health Services says they have been planning this rollout for months. They expect to have a website online in the coming days where people can learn more about where to get a vaccine, when they need to come back for a second dose, and other frequently asked questions.
HonorHealth Medical Group spent Friday morning unloading ancillary kits that Phizer provided Maricopa County.
"This is extremely important. We’ve been waiting for these for quite a while," said Tim Miller, HonorHealth's Vice President of Supply Chain. "Hundreds of people have been working on this project, and it’s culminating in receiving these kits and getting the vaccines next week."
While the initial doses will be reserved for medical workers who come in contact with COVID-19 on an almost daily basis, long-term care staff and residents will also be able to get shots before the end of the year.
Many are relieved to finally know there is a vaccine available.
"Most healthcare workers are willing to take the vaccine," said Dr. Christ.
Polling done in Arizona, though, revealed 37% of the healthcare workers said they did not plan to get the initial vaccine.
It is unclear what the eagerness will be for essential works, like police officers and firefighters, or higher-risk individuals, which are the two groups in-line after healthcare workers.
The reluctance from some, and strong opposition by others, highlights the uphill battle state health leaders may face.
"We know that there is a vaccine hesitancy out in the community," said Dr. Christ. "The flu vaccine varies. On an average we fall anywhere between 37-50% of the population."
The state knows they need to increase buy-in and messaging around safety and efficacy if they are going to get close to 70% participation and herd immunity.
"We need people to know the vaccine is safe, effective, and for everyone’s benefit," said Dr. Christ.
The state plans to play off their existing "Roll up your sleeve" ad campaign for flu season.
The vaccine is arriving in Arizona at a time where the state is seeing an unprecedented surge. Arizona currently has the highest R-Naught in the country, which is a key indicator as to how fast the virus is spreading.
"I think people are letting their guards down in familiar, trusted places," said Dr. Christ.
When questioned about implementing new mitigation measures, Dr. Christ said she is advising Governor Ducey to focus on enforcement.
She said the state will be cracking down on businesses that flout guidelines and allow large, maskless gatherings. Dr. Christ said she was not advising a shutdown of indoor dining, which has been enacted in some nearby states like California and even New York.
The shots will start building some much-needed immunity for some this month, but Arizona is far from in the clear.
"That’s kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s still a couple months off," said Dr. Christ.
For questions surrounding the coronavirus and Arizona's numbers, visit the ADHS website HERE.
The state is also looking to recruit volunteers, with medical backgrounds and licenses, to help administer the vaccine. If you are interested, you can learn more by clicking HERE.