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N4T Investigators: How does Tucson’s state-run vaccination site impact Pima County’s supply?

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The state's opening a vaccination site at the University of Arizona while cutting back on the number of vaccines it gives Pima County, according to local officials who are concerned.  

The big question is, will the state run-site take resources away from the county?  

Pima County Administrator, Chuck Huckleberry said the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) reduced the county’s vaccine supply by 40%. He told the Pima County Board of Supervisors in a memo, "what the state takes... Decreases everyone else’s supply.”  

So, the News 4 Tucson investigators asked ADHS, will there be enough vaccines for county and state sites? 

We didn't get a clear answer. Instead, a spokesperson said ADHS is sending the state run-site 1,000 vaccine doses this week. It is also sending 16,300 doses to the Pima County Health Department and community providers. 

We asked, is ADHS taking vaccines from the county's supply for the state site? 

A spokesperson replied saying in-part, "...Doses going to a state vaccination site count toward the county’s allotment" and "Pima County continues to receive its proportional 14% share of the state’s vaccine allotment from the federal government." 

“If you’re going to improve vaccination rates among lower-income persons in the Tucson-area, you need to bring the vaccine to them,” Will Humble, Arizona Public Health Association's Executive Director told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

Humble is also a former director of ADHS.

He said as more vaccines go to the state-run site, less could go to the county's mobile sites.  In a social media post referencing this situation, Humble said it would create "an even bigger disparity for low income folks." 

We asked the state if Humble’s concerns are accurate. 

ADHS didn't respond directly to Humble's comments. A spokesperson said in-part the state's sending the county Moderna vaccines this week. The county gets to prioritize where 94% of those doses go, adding the state's sending another 5,850 Pfizer vaccines to the county this week to cover upcoming vaccine appointments. But winter weather is delaying shipments. 

In a news conference Pima County Public Health Director, Doctor Theresa Cullen said the state site is not, " limited to residents of Pima County...”  

We asked, can the state assure Pima County residents vaccines meant for them, won't go to other Arizonans? 

A spokesperson replied in-part... "In Maricopa County, 95% of those vaccinated at the two-state pods have been Maricopa County residents, and it’s logical to believe that will be the case with a state pod in southern Arizona. " 

The state's assuming 5% of the vaccines it sends to Pima County won't actually go to those of you who live here. Of course, there's no way to guarantee what happened in Maricopa County will happen here. We'll have to wait and see. 

ADHS’ full statement can be read below: 

"The University of Arizona POD is receiving 1,000 Moderna doses this week. Due to weather delays affecting vaccine shipments throughout the country, these have not yet been delivered. As is the case in Maricopa County, doses going to a state vaccination site count toward the county’s allotment. In Maricopa County, 95% of those vaccinated at the two state PODs have been Maricopa County residents, and it’s logical to believe that will be the case with a state POD in southern Arizona. Transitioning the University of Arizona operation to a state vaccination site expands hours and capacity while eventually allowing for a 24/7 operation as more vaccine doses arrive in Arizona. Pima County continues to receive its proportional 14% share of the state’s vaccine allotment from the federal government. There has been no change to that.  

Outside of the state vaccination site at the University of Arizona, this week, a total of 16,300 Moderna doses will arrive in Pima County and have been directed to local community providers and large vaccination sites by the Pima County Health Department. That equates to Pima County directing a total of 94% of the Moderna doses arriving in the county this week to the sites and providers they prioritize. An additional 5,850 Pfizer doses were ordered for delivery this week to large county vaccination sites in Pima County to cover their upcoming appointments." 

If you have a story you’d like us to look into call our tip line 955-4444 or email investigators@kvoa.Com  

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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