Susan Archibald, a Sonoita resident, volunteers at the Nogales Recreation Center vaccination clinic on Tuesday, April 20.

The Santa Cruz County government said on Monday that it will wrap up its mass COVID-19 vaccination effort at the City of Nogales Recreation Center on June 17.

“The demand is down,” County Health Services Director Jeff Terrell said of the decision, adding that he thinks the ongoing need for vaccinations in the community can be met by pharmacies and other providers.

Terrell noted that the trend at the national and state levels has been to move away from the large points of distribution toward community-based vaccinations. Last week, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced that its state-run vaccination sites would be phased out over the coming weeks “as Arizona’s focus turns to increasing the number of neighborhood options, including pharmacies, doctors’ offices and pop-up clinics.” 

People age 12 or older who live or are employed in Santa Cruz County can still be vaccinated at the Rec Center from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on four dates: June 8, 9, 11 and 17. Vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson will be available those dates on a walk-in basis, or by appointment made online.

“The public is encouraged to take advantage of the vaccination clinic currently available at the Nogales Recreation Center over the next two weeks,” the county said in a news release.

Starting on June 18, vaccinations will continue to be available at local pharmacies. Beginning on June 22, vaccinations will also be administered Tuesday through Thursday at Mariposa Community Health Center sites in Santa Cruz County. Appointments are recommended for vaccines at the MCHC clinics.

The gymnasium at the Rec Center on Hohokam Drive in Nogales was converted into an ad-hoc vaccination clinic during the second week of January, with a crew of volunteers and county staff checking patients in and monitoring their post-shot reactions, and health professionals from MCHC administering the doses. The point of distribution (POD) has received positive reviews from community members for its organization and efficiency.

“It’s been a very good process. It’s been a great team effort with Mariposa, the city, all the volunteers who have come in, all the county workers as well,” Terrell said.

He cited the county’s high rates of vaccinations – the highest in the state at some points – as evidence of the POD’s effectiveness.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from everyone, from the volunteers who said it was great to be helping out, to the people who got the vaccines saying it was a great process and very well organized,” he said. “So it was a very collaborative, team effort, and it’s been a great experience working with everybody to get the vaccines in people’s arms.”

Data from the Arizona Department of Health Services showed that as of Monday, 32,324 people had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Cruz County, and 27,699 had been fully vaccinated.

Compared to the county’s U.S. Census-estimated population of 46,498, those numbers represent a nearly 70-percent one-dose rate and a nearly 60-percent fully vaccinated rate. However, some of the doses administered in Santa Cruz County have gone to people who work locally but live elsewhere, such as federal law enforcement officers.

Meanwhile, the number of new confirmed COVID-19 infections has slowed to a trickle. Data posted Monday by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Department showed that there had been 8,016 cases confirmed in county residents since the start of the pandemic. That marked an increase of nine cases during the previous week.

The number of COVID-19 deaths among county residents was 180 as of Monday, a number that has been unchanged for the past two weeks. Hospitalizations were at 566, which represented a weekly increase of one.

COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are not necessarily reported to the county on the day, week or even month that they occur. Terrell previously said that some cases reported to the county of late have been from as far back as 2020.

Across the line

In Nogales, Sonora, there had been 4,691 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 506 deaths attributed to the disease as of Sunday, according to the Sonora state government. That marked a one-week increase of 40 reported cases and one death.

Also on Sunday, Mexican health authorities raised the state of Sonora’s coronavirus risk status one step to “yellow” on the country’s four-color advisory system. The state had been at “green,” the lowest level of risk, for several weeks. Still, Nogales was one of six individual municipalities in Sonora that remained at “green” status, a level it’s been at since April.

Last week in Nogales, Sonora, health authorities began vaccinating people in the 40-49 age group as part of Mexico’s national inoculation plan. Then on Friday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his government would use 1 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine donated by the United States to expand vaccination efforts to people between 18 and 40 in Mexico’s northern border states.

The move is meant to speed up the full re-opening of the U.S.-Mexico border, which the United States closed to non-essential travel from Mexico starting in March 2020.

According to The Associated Press, Mexican officials said they will have to obtain another 2 million doses of the one-shot vaccine – which they might purchase from Johnson & Johnson – to vaccinate the country’s 3 million border residents between 18 and 40.

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