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Phase 1B vaccinations: Maricopa County sign-ups starting Monday; appointments still limited

As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, the state of Arizona is opening a 24/7 large-scale immunization site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

The site, set to launch Monday afternoon, should facilitate about 6,000 vaccinations per day when it's fully operational, state health director Dr. Cara Christ said during a news briefing Friday.

Starting next week, prioritized phase 1B individuals will be able to sign up for appointments on a first-come, first-served basis.

State health officials are "not happy with the speed" of vaccine distribution to date, Christ said, but that process will be ramping up in the coming weeks.

Through Thursday, 126,090 Arizonans had been vaccinated. The state expects to have received a total of 581,425 doses by next week.

Vaccinations at State Farm Stadium will be open by appointment for people who are in prioritized vaccination group 1B — K-12 school staff and child care workers; law enforcement officers, corrections officers and other protective service employees; and adults 75 and older.

Education and law enforcement workers should check with their employers before signing up through the state or individual counties, as they may have other vaccine distribution plans.

Other Phase 1B groups, including adults living in congregate settings and other essential workers, will be prioritized after the initial groups. The prioritized 1B population is a large group of approximately 760,620 eligible individuals statewide, including 534,905 adults age 75 and older, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services' state vaccination plan.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday that Arizona is getting $65 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help fund vaccine clinics and community engagement to help "get Arizonans vaccinated as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible."

The state hopes to launch other state-run sites based on the State Farm model, Christ said. The State Farm site is a cooperative effort between the state and several partners, including Arizona State University, the state Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, the Arizona Cardinals, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and the Catherine and Ben Ivy Foundation.

At a statewide level, prioritized Phase 1B individuals can start signing up for appointments Monday. People can register at the State Farm Stadium site and certain county facilities at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.  People who need help registering by phone can call 211 or call the state's COVID-19 hotline at 844-542-8201.

People in the 1B groups may also sign up through county health departments. Christ said the state expects to begin vaccinating the Phase 1C group, which includes adults 65 and older, in late February or early March.

Maricopa County will be opening limited registration for the COVID-19 vaccine to members of the second priority group starting Monday.

Prioritized individuals in Phase 1B will be able to start signing up online Monday for appointments. Spots will be limited at first because Phase 1A for health care workers is continuing, county officials said this week.

"We know everyone is ready to move to the next step, and so are we," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "We're trying to finalize all of these details as fast as we can to ensure a smooth experience for everyone who can get the vaccine."

Information on where vaccinations will occur and how to sign up will be posted on maricopa.gov/5651/Phase-1B starting Monday. There is no registration available for 1B individuals before then. The county public health department can be reached at 602-506-6767.

Appointments first will be available at the county’s Point of Dispensing (POD) sites, which have been used for Phase 1A vaccinations for health care workers and at-risk first responders. Phase 1B individuals will be able to sign up for open slots at the POD sites that are not already booked for second doses for Phase 1A individuals. Phase 1A people still will be able to sign up for their first shots alongside prioritized 1B individuals.

Sunenshine said rather than finishing Phase 1A before moving to 1B, the county is making a "slow transition" to make sure all available appointments are used. She said the majority of Monday’s appointments are already filled by health care workers, but 1B individuals will be able to take extra spots.

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"What we're trying to do is open up to the priority groups in 1B as soon as we can because we know people are anxious to get vaccinated, knowing that we're still vaccinating health care workers, but not wanting to waste a single opportunity," she said.

As Maricopa County receives more doses and ramps up its programs, vaccines will likely be allocated to places outside the POD sites for these prioritized groups. That could include vaccinations at pharmacies and federally qualified health centers for those 75 and older and vaccination clinics at places of employment for essential workers. There will also be specialized clinics or mini-PODs for school staff and child care workers.

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine.

"We've said all along that PODs are only one piece of vaccine distribution," Sunenshine said. "The more vaccine doses we get, the more sites we can allocate vaccine to and we can make available to the public."

Only those in Phase 1A and prioritized 1B with appointments will be able to get the vaccine. Walk-ins are not allowed.

Individuals will be required to show their appointment confirmation along with confirmation they're in Phase 1B, such as an ID showing their age or a work badge or paycheck proving place of employment.

The county will update maricopa.gov/covid19vaccine as more groups are able to get vaccinated and as more sites open, with the end goal of vaccinating as many county residents as are willing.

After Phase 1B comes 1C, which includes adults 65 and over and adults with high-risk medical conditions.

Phase 2 (spring and summer) is remaining Phase 1 individuals, additional high-risk or critical populations and the general population.

Phase 3 (summer and beyond) is remaining Phase 1 and 2 individuals and the general population.

Pima County to start next phase soon

Pima County plans to start wrapping up Phase 1A so it can move into 1B as early as late next week. County health officials say 1B is a large group that will require "significant effort and logistics."

The county hopes to facilitate "multiple entry points" for the large 1B group to get a vaccine, said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the county's chief medical officer. It may be a worksite clinic, a POD at a hospital or individual doctors' offices, he said. The strategy is to have the greatest degree of flexibility to get the greatest number of people vaccinated, he said.

Additional vaccine sites in Pima County are expected to start going up next week, one by one, in a phased way, Garcia said.

Used syringes for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are seen discarded.

Phase 1B will likely continue in Pima County until the end of March, Garcia said. The county hopes everyone who wants the vaccine will have received at least one of their doses by early summer.

"What matters is that we get a significant portion of our community vaccinated," said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the county health director. "It's up to us as your public health department, coupled with the other health care facilities in the county to make sure that we get those out as quickly and safely as we can."

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For now, Pima County will be using the state's vaccine registration system for the general public but also may develop its own registration tools in the future, Cullen said. The county is also working on making availability for people to register by phone rather than online, she said.

Other counties also starting 1B

Christ said her office has been urging counties to begin Phase 1B as soon as possible. Most counties likely will start Phase 1B sometime next week, opening up vaccination to a much larger group of individuals.

Pinal County was the first to shift to Phase 1B individuals, with sign-up available online.

Gila County this week began providing vaccines to people in the 1B categories. People can call 928-402-8888 or email Covid19vaccine@gilacountyaz.gov to set up an appointment.

Apache County also has moved into Phase 1B. Individuals can call providers about appointment availability and should call an Apache County public health clinic or their primary care providers with questions. Information is available at 311info.net/covid-19.

Mohave County is starting the transition, with vaccine immediately available to protective service workers. Vaccine providers will likely start inoculating adults 75 and older late next week. Prioritized Phase 1B individuals can contact providers to schedule appointments.

Yuma County will begin prioritized Phase 1B vaccinations on Monday for "U.S. residents ages 75 and older, educators, child care workers, and law enforcement/protective services."

Appointments are required for vaccinations at the Yuma County Health District and can be made at podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Adults 75 and older should call 928-317-4687 to schedule an appointment with county public health staff. Individuals will need to show valid U.S. identification and proof of employment, according to the county.

For information about other counties, visit the county's public health department website.

For statewide information, see the state’s vaccine webpage at azhealth.gov/covid19vaccine.  

Reach the reporter at Alison.Steinbach@arizonarepublic.com or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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