Vaccine chart

Having already received 1,700 COVID-19 vaccine doses, Santa Cruz County could soon begin vaccinating people in the 1B priority group as part of Phase 1 of the vaccination campaign in Arizona.

A major delivery on Monday nearly tripled the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Santa Cruz County to 1,700.

As a result, public health officials said, the county has enough to vaccinate all local people who are designated as “1A,” the state’s highest priority level for the vaccine, and begin administering the shots to individuals in the next priority group.

Prior to the Jan. 4 delivery, the county had received 100 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 21 – less than the 1,000 it was expecting that week – and another 500 on Dec. 28. On Jan. 4, a new shipment of 200 vaccines came in and the missing 900 vaccines also showed up, apparently without explanation.

Of the 1,100 doses delivered on Monday, 1,000 went to the Mariposa Community Health Center (MCHC), which has received the county’s previous shipments. The remaining 100 were sent to Holy Cross Hospital, according to Jeff Terrell, director of the County Health Services Department.

Dr. Eladio Pereira, chief medical officer for MCHC, said on Monday that about 300 vaccine doses have been administered so far. He said that staffing levels have meant the health center hasn’t been able to administer doses as fast as it could with more hands on deck.

The 1A priority group includes healthcare workers, emergency medical services providers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Pereira said MCHC had vaccinated healthcare staff in its own system and at Holy Cross Hospital, as well as other local health providers, long-term-care residents and EMS employees in Nogales, Rio Rico, Tubac and Sonoita-Elgin.

So far, those workers have scheduled their vaccinations directly with MCHC, since a planned statewide sign-up system still isn’t up and running.

Pereira said MCHC expects to begin vaccinating workers in the 1B category next Monday or Tuesday. That group includes healthcare workers who aren’t in 1A, as well as law enforcement officers, teachers and childcare providers, adults living in group homes, people over 75, and people working in other essential services roles. He said he’s hoping the state’s registration system will be ready to go for 1B recipients, but MCHC will move ahead with vaccinating 1B individuals whether or not the system is available.

Terrell estimated that employees in the 1A priority group number between 800 and 1,000 in Santa Cruz County, but on Monday, Pereira said that the 600 vaccine doses delivered in the previous two weeks would likely be enough or almost enough to vaccinate all those in the 1A group who wanted to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve had a pretty good acceptance for the vaccine across the board,” Pereira said.

The vaccine requires two doses, administered roughly one month apart.

As for rumors that people who don’t qualify for the 1A priority group have been receiving the vaccination, Terrell said they were “probably unfounded.” He added that the county had worked with MCHC, and the health center was aware of who qualified to receive the county’s first vaccines.

Pereira also noted that vaccination schedules can change, but that’s mainly to prevent doses from going bad.

The Moderna vaccines come in vials with 10 doses each, he said, and after a vial is opened, its contents must be used within six hours. If a vial is partially used, staff might call people to come in and receive the remaining doses on the spot.

In those cases, Pereira said, MCHC staff call individuals in the 1A group who were already signed up for later appointments to receive the vaccine.

Also on Monday, the County Board of Supervisors announced a special meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, with the lone agenda item being “COVID-19 update.”

However, board meetings are off limits to the public and the supervisors continue to refuse to livestream their meetings or post videos of them online. Members of the public who want to listen in can call (669) 900-6833 and use the meeting ID 914 664 2271.

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