GILA COUNTY, AZ — Gila County is doing COVID-19 vaccination right, gaining national attention for being one of the first counties to vaccinate the general population in the U.S.
As of this weekend, 38% of eligible adults have received their first dose of the Moderna vaccination. Gila County has a population of 54,000 people, and not everyone is eligible for a vaccination with the county, due to age (younger than 18) or they are part of a Native American Tribe and are being vaccinated separately.
Part of the reason Gila County and the City of Globe, have had success in distributing the vaccine, is because the leadership says they are treating the pandemic as if it were fighting a wildfire.
"When you get these hotspots, you hit them directly, you mitigate them, and you put them out," said Globe Mayor Al Gameros, who served as the Globe Fire Chief before becoming mayor.
Gila County Public Health asked hospitals, doctor's offices, schools, and other community buildings to help distribute the vaccine in more populated areas, while also focusing on rural areas.
"Gila County Public Health and the National Guard would go into more rural areas and do very targeted clinics out there," said Michael O'Driscoll, Director of Emergency Management with Gila County Public Health.
Another unique move by the county was eliminating the online vaccine registration website for booking appointments, and instead investing in a call center so elderly people didn't have problems navigating a website.
"[They're] able to call in, talk to a human being, book your appointment and get you vaccination," said Gameros.
When Gila County's data mixed with the state's data, and residents of other counties were able to schedule an appointment in Gila County, the health department turned to Survey Monkey, an online survey-making resource for the general public, to collect data about their residents.
"We could verify who wasn’t a Gila County resident very easily, so it was sort of a back door approach with the vaccine management system," said O'Driscoll.
This past week, Mayor Gameros and Driscoll appeared on CNN to discuss their success in distributing the vaccination. O'Driscoll projects 50% of eligible adults will be first-dose vaccinated in a little more than a week.