February 19, 2021

County vaccine supply should recover next week

Weather delays and decreased allotments led to cancelations this week, but more vaccine should arrive in the coming days.

360 more moderna vials A container holds several vials of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine at a distribution event at Tucson Medical Center on Jan. 15, 2021.
Robert Lindberg/AZPM Staff

COVID-19 metrics continue to improve in Pima County, even as winter weather has led to temporary vaccine delays. The county's seven-day rolling average of new cases has been dropping steadily for the last couple weeks.

Earlier this week, Pima County anticipated having to cancel as many as 4,800 vaccine appointments due to reduced supply and weather delays, but that final number dropped by more than half.

In a press call Friday, Pima County Health Director Theresa Cullen said the county operates at "razor-thin" margins in terms of vaccine distribution, partly to ensure that it continues to receive a significant allotment from the state. But she said the good news is most of those canceled appointments have been rescheduled.

"Approximately 91 to 93% of people that had appointments this week or next week will get rescheduled or be able to keep their appointment," Cullen said.

The situation still remains fluid. A shipment of Moderna vaccine expected for Saturday has now been further delayed, but the county learned Friday it would get surprise additional 4,600 doses from the state. Once those are added to the regular deliveries expected to arrive next week, the county should be able to catch up.

So far the weather delays have mostly affected Moderna vaccine supply. Cullen said the state-run PODs distributing Pfizer vaccine have been largely unaffected.

The Pima County Health Department also continues to expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution outside of the large mass-vaccination sites. Cullen said the county is working to increase the number of mobile clinics and plans to conduct three or four of them next weekend. Cullen said the county is also evaluating whether it should dedicate a certain percentage of its doses to regularly supply the mobile clinics going forward.

"The larger pods are the most efficient from a timing perspective to get vaccine out there, but remember, it's not just shots in arms, it's shots in arms with an equitable distribution. And if we do that, that would enable us to ensure that we were at least starting to get more equity with this," she said.

Cullen said the county is also setting up plans to vaccinate an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 residents who are homebound as well as those who may have mobility or disability challenges. Many homebound residents are already on a state emergency list and Cullen said her department is working with community partners to reach others.

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