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Health officials ask for patience as Phase 1B of vaccination plan nears in Pima County

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TUCSON (KVOA) - While some Southern Arizona counties are already in Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination plan, that is not yet the case in Pima County. 

But the county's chief medical officer says Pima County is getting close.

Rillito is one of the vaccine sites that will be set up in the next few weeks. 

Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County's Chief Medical Officer, says they are in the process of setting up the registration. They are also getting multiple sites ready for this priority group to get their shots.

Garcia expects Pima County will move to Phase 1B by the end of the week.

Pima County continues giving out the COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare workers and first responders.

As the county's chief doctor expects the Phase 1B population on deck to start getting vaccinated within days, Garcia said that the vaccination period is likely to stretch over a month. But he knows there are a lot of moving parts mixed in with some unpredictability.

"Make no mistake about it, this is a very logistically complex, operationally difficult undertaking that is sucking up a lot of resources," Garcia said. "And that is actually technically very hard to do."

The Phase 1B group includes teachers, utility workers, food and transportation and people 75 and older. 

At the moment, this group cannot sign up or register through Pima County and its partners to get the vaccine. 

Garcia said the county is working to set up a registration site instead of relying on the state portal.

"There are 92,000 individuals who are 75 and older in this community," he said. "That's a lot of people."

Andrew Carroll is a family medicine doctor up in Phoenix. He's hoping local health departments will allow him and colleagues to give doses to their patients.

"None of us have heard from Maricopa County about when we're going to get vaccine at all," he said. "And it's kind of hard to be in the dark like that and not know a timeline for my patients who are still asking me." 

Carroll believes it's vital he be able to administer the vaccine to be that reassuring voice to his patients.

"I know who will do well with the vaccine and who will not. But I also am that voice on the other end of the line when they have a question," he said. "'Hey, doc, I have a little bit of a fever and I got my shot three days ago, do I need to worry that I might have COVID.' Well, no, it's more likely that the shot gave you the fever and you're going to be okay."  

Garcia wants people to be patient. 

"Whether you get the vaccination today or you get it in three weeks, it is really not that big a difference," he said. "We just want to make sure that six months down the road, we have covered a very large portion of Pima County."  

The Pima County locations for Phase 1B include sites at Banner North, TMC, the parking lot of the Kino Sports Complex, the Tucson Convention Center and Rillito. 

Garcia hopes most of the sites will be up by next week.

He said it will take a little longer for the pod here at the Rillito.

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Eric Fink

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