Karen Rumsey of Rio Rico receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday at the City of Nogales Recreation Department. Rumsey, a 69-year-old retired nurse from Kansas, recently contacted the county and offered her skills as a volunteer to help vaccinate others in the community. She was given the vaccine in advance of undertaking that duty.

Local authorities were expecting a larger-than-anticipated allocation of COVID-19 vaccines this week, and in advance of their arrival, opened an online registration site for those eligible to receive the shots.

In a news release issued Saturday morning, the county government said a new allotment of the Moderna vaccine was set to arrive this week that would include 1,400 first doses for public safety officers and people 75 or older. That is significantly more than the 200 doses that county and local health officials previously anticipated.

“We do not know how or why it was increased,” County Manager Jennifer St. John said of the surprisingly larger allocation, adding that local authorities also didn’t know if it was an indication of the size of the county’s future weekly allotments.

One issue that has come up is that significant numbers of federal law enforcement officers are getting vaccinated in Santa Cruz County, despite that fact that not all of them live here and they weren’t included in the numbers that Arizona used to calculate the county’s share of vaccines. County Health Services Director Jeff Terrell said last week that border counties had lobbied the state to address the discrepancy, but St. John said the county was told that this week’s increase was not due to the federal employee situation, which is “still being considered and evaluated.”

Local residents eligible to receive the incoming doses – police officers and people 75 and older – can start the registration process here.

“This is not an appointment portal, but will expedite the appointment and final registration process,” the county said in its Saturday news release, adding that the portal will be available 24 hours a day.

Eligible people who registered for a vaccine last week by phone or email, but who haven’t yet been given an appointment, do not need to register again, the county said.

The vaccines will be given by appointment only beginning Wednesday, Jan. 20. The administration of the vaccines is being managed by the Mariposa Community Health Center at an ad-hoc vaccination clinic set up last week at the City of Nogales Recreation Department gym on Hohokam Drive.

“City staff members moved quickly, due to the immense necessity of our community, to ensure that the off-site facility is operational for vaccine distribution,” the city said in a news release issued by the Mayor’s Office last Friday.

In addition to the 1,400 new doses for first-time recipients, the county announced on Saturday that 1,000 second doses were slated to arrive this week for those healthcare and emergency response workers who were already given the first dose. (The vaccine calls for two doses to be given approximately four weeks apart.)

The county is currently in Phase 1B of vaccine distribution, though it’s limiting the shots to the 1B subgroups of public safety officers and people 75 and older. In addition, healthcare and emergency response workers who are part of priority group 1A but who did not already receive a first shot can still be vaccinated.

The 1B priority group also includes education and childcare workers, and people working in what are deemed to be essential services or critical industries.

Last Wednesday, the CDC and a state group recommended opening up vaccination to those 65 and older beginning on Jan. 19. However, Santa Cruz County has not yet confirmed an expansion of vaccine eligibility.

“More information about vaccine eligibility and the vaccine distribution process for the remaining populations in Phase 1B and future phases will be shared as soon as it becomes available,” the county said on Saturday.

State data showed that 1,770 people had received a COVID-19 vaccine shot in Santa Cruz County as of Monday, an increase of 999 people from the previous week.

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