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Arizona falling behind in COVID-19 vaccine administration compared to other states

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Posted at 3:57 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 20:42:12-05

More than 101,000 vaccines are now in the arms of Arizonans across the state.

Maricopa County alone reported that they’ve vaccinated nearly 59,000 people. But it’s still a far cry from where they wanted to be.

As of Tuesday, Arizona has given out just 24% of the vaccine it currently has on hand. An abysmal number especially compared to neighboring states. Colorado and New Mexico for instance have dealt out nearly 43% of their current supply.

“There’s so much variability across the country, and so much variability from state to state, and from county to county,” said Dr. Hani Mahmassani, a logistics expert at Northwestern University.

Those variables include who they prioritize, the size of the population, geography, outreach techniques, scheduling systems, and the number of vaccination sites. All of these factors make it difficult to understand why some are doing better than others.

“As in most states the ability to roll out, to actually vaccinate people, has not fully kept up with what has been received, and part of that is this is a holiday period,” said Dr. Mahmassani. “I’m going to be watching very closely the numbers this week because that’s going to be our first week of rollout where we don’t have vacation impact."

“As soon as that vaccine comes in, we’re getting it to people,” said Dr. David Basel with Avera Health in South Dakota during a press conference this week.

South Dakota health officials are touting their state's efforts. The state leads the nation and has used 62% of its doses so far. Health officials attribute the success to a robust electronic medical records system allowing them to contact eligible populations via email or text.

Dakota News Now Reporter Jacob Cersosimo weighed in.

“Just the collaboration between all of our healthcare systems in the state as well as the city and state governments, it’s made it simple for everybody,” said Cersosimo.

South Dakota’s population is tiny compared to Arizona where the initial rollout was plagued by scheduling glitches. The largest county, Maricopa, is only operating five vaccine locations, some of which have been closed.

Now the challenge will be to open up, staff, and provide vaccines to hundreds of new locations to speed up results, but when that will happen is still anyone's guess.

“I think what we’re going to start seeing this week and next week is going to be more representative I think of the ability of the states to deploy this and hopefully they’ve learned some lessons along the way as well,” said Dr. Mahmassani.