PHOENIX — On February 1, the COVID-19 testing site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium will transform into a massive vaccination location, but the rollout process in our state continues to see new challenges as Arizonans await their chance for the vaccine.
The stadium's transformation is part of a plan to rapidly expand vaccine access across the state, but limited supply and locations aren't making it simple.
“They’re telling us, 'just go on the website and get it,' and you go there...it’s a real chore to find something,” said Henry Wall.
Wall is 77, lives in the East Valley and is eligible to receive the vaccine. He spent hours and multiple days searching online for an appointment, finally snagging one nowhere near his home.
“I wound up having to go to a location in Surprise, which is about 45 miles away,” said Wall.
It’s a testimonial that highlights the need for more vaccine locations. On Thursday, the state announced Phoenix Municipal Stadium is bringing one online next month.
Dr. Cara Christ spoke about the effort on KTAR 92.3 FM Thursday morning.
“We have created a playbook that now, it can be recreated at different sites now,” said Dr. Christ.
She says it won’t be the last state-run POD site set up either, with more locations in the works. So far, more than 200,000 people across the state have gotten the vaccine.
Pharmacies are also about to play a major role.
“We’re bringing on 100 pharmacies in the next few weeks that will have doses available,” said Dr. Christ. “And we have another 800 ready to go when more vaccine arrives.”
State leaders on Wednesday opened up vaccine distribution to those 65 and older -- big plans, but supply right now is limited. Many counties like Yuma and Pinal aren’t able to move on to that group until they get more. Maricopa County is in the same boat.
VACCINE UPDATE: Maricopa County is not opening up vaccines to 65+ until more vaccine is supplied.— Nicole Grigg (@NicoleSGrigg) January 14, 2021
Maricopa County will continue to vaccinate 1A and 1B priority group. (that includes 75+)
“We are not going to be able to open up and expand to other groups until that vaccine opens up in supply,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Maricopa County Health.
However state-run sites will be serving those 65 and older, opening up appointments for that group next Tuesday at 9 a.m. Though, the earliest for anyone in the group to be able to get a shot in February.
“We have heard the federal government may release additional doses,” explained Dr. Sunenshine.
Maricopa County says until then, they are establishing more distribution sites dedicated to teachers and law enforcement. They also say the site a Grand Canyon University is set to open next week and ready to do 500 vaccinations per day.
The Phoenix Union High School District also announced Thursday, four campuses will be used to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to school employees within the district. Officials say the partnership with Maricopa County Public Health will take place over two days where hundreds of teachers and staff are expected to get the shot.
The pods are being set up at:
Carl Hayden Community High School
Central High School
Cesar Chavez High School
Maryvale High School
The two-day event runs on January 22 and 23 and a registration link for the event will be sent to all school employees.
But all of this comes down to the federal government living up to its promise of flooding the states with vaccines in the coming weeks. And the clock is ticking.