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After a slow start last week, Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 vaccination effort picked up speed to reach the highest number of shots given during any week so far, according to state data.

Statistics posted by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed 3,672 vaccine doses administered in Santa Cruz County during the seven-day period beginning Monday, April 5. The previous local high had been 3,501 doses given during the week of Monday, Feb. 8.

The county, which had been focusing on vaccinating people 65 and older and workers in essential industries, abruptly changed its requirements at the start of the month, opening eligibility to anyone 18 or older who lives or works in the county. At the same time, local health authorities ditched a system in which people pre-registered for a shot and then waited for a call to set up an appointment, for one in which people can make their own appointments online.

Immediately following the changes, authorities reported that appointments weren’t filling as fast as they had hoped. But after a relatively slow day of 484 shots given on Monday, April 5, the numbers increased to 661 on Tuesday and 745 on Wednesday, according to ADHS reports.

“It did end up picking up some,” said Jeff Terrell, the county’s director of health services.

Asked if he though the change in process might have caused the short-lived slowdown in appointments, Terrell said: “Kind of that, plus I think it had to do with the fact that it was Easter weekend and people may have been out and returned on Monday. It’s kind of a combination of both.”

The county’s vaccine allotment last week consisted of 3,200 Moderna doses and 800 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This week, Terrell said on Monday, he was anticipating roughly the same number of Moderna doses but closer to 100 J&J shots. 

(Note: On Tuesday, April 13, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced it was recommending a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “The CDC and FDA are recommending a pause in the use of the vaccine based on six reported U.S. cases, out of 6.8 million doses administered nationally, of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” the ADHS said in an announcement.)

Terrell said he expected to fill many of this week’s appointments – around 500 per day – with second shots for people who received their first Moderna dose a month ago.

People 18 or older who live or work in Santa Cruz County can schedule a vaccine appointment online at schedule.intelichart.com/2B67A64E. People without internet access can call (520) 375-7626.

U.S. Census estimates from 2019 put the county’s population at 46,498, with 26.6 percent of local residents under the age of 18, meaning they are not eligible for either of the two vaccines being offered here. That leaves an estimated 34,130 county residents who are currently eligible for a vaccine.

The ADHS numbers available Monday showed that more than 33,000 total vaccine shots had been administered in Santa Cruz County to 22,273 people, though some of those recipients are non-county-residents who work locally.

“We’re doing real well, I think, compared to some of the other counties,” Terrell said.

In addition to the county’s vaccination effort, which offers inoculations at a clinic set up at the City of Nogales Recreation Department and which supplies Rio Rico Pharmacy with a limited number of doses, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination is providing more local outlets with vaccines.

Walgreens in Nogales has received doses from the program since February, and now the local Walmart has joined in as well. According to vaccinefinder.org, Walgreens is offering Moderna vaccines and Walmart had been administering Johnson & Johnson shots as of Monday.

Food City in Nogales had also begun receiving J&J vaccines, according to store management, though the shots were being given only to Food City staff.

As of Monday, there had been 7,822 confirmed COVID-cases, 173 coronavirus-related deaths and 545 hospitalizations in Santa Cruz County since the start of the pandemic. That represented a one-week increase of 29 cases, one death and two hospitalizations.

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