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Pima County opens vaccine pre-registration for people 65 and up after seeing drastic drop in supply

TUCSON (KVOA) - People over the age of 65 will soon be able to register for the COVID-19 vaccination in Pima County after the county's health department announced Tuesday that it will launch pre-registration for this group on Thursday.

Back on Jan. 14, Pima County officially moved into Phase 1B of its vaccination distribution plan, vaccinating population groups including protective services workers; K-12, university and community college educators; childcare workers; and adults 75 and older.

While much of Arizona lowered the age range to include people 65 and older in correlation to Gov. Doug Ducey's push in January, Pima County elected to exclude this group from priority due to the amount of vaccine the department had on hand to distribute.

After allowing people 70 and older to register for vaccine appointments on Feb. 4, Pima County Health Department announced that it will include people between 65 and 69 to Phase 1B priority group on Tuesday.

According to the county, pre-registration for this group will officially begin on Thursday at 9 a.m.

“We are continuing to meet or exceed our goals for moving through the priority groups and look forward to having the state’s new site to help us keep up that pace,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Health Department Director. “The 65 to 69 age group is going to be one of the biggest we have added thus far.”

While Arizona Department of Health Services reported delivering nearly 200,000 doses of the vaccine to health officials in the county so far, Pima County saw a 40 percent cut in its allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine early February, dropping from 29,000 to 17,895 doses in its weekly shipment. 

The county continued seeing decreases in its supply throughout the month, receiving 16,300 doses last week.

In response to the limited supply reportedly created by the state rationing the vaccine, PCHD shared that it put a new vaccine distribution priority plan in place this week.

Officials said under this new plan, ADHS said it will prioritize "the most vulnerable first." It will "then people needing second doses, following with first doses for people 70 and older, then vaccinations for people 65 and over." The department also cut down hours of distribution sites across the county, consolidating sites like the Banner North Cancer Center in order to allow better allocation of staff and resources.

Despite this shortage in supply, Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County's chief medical officer said in a briefing Tuesday afternoon that the county decided to begin the pre-registration process for people 65 and up in order to maintain consistency with the state's registration process.

PCHD COVID-19 Briefing

WATCH LIVE: Dr. Francisco Garcia holds a press briefing after Pima County announced it will begin registering people 65 and up for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Posted by News 4 Tucson - KVOA on Tuesday, February 16, 2021

“There is still a great deal of demand for appointments among those 70 and older and along with our partners, we are working hard to continue being efficient in getting every dose we can out to our community,” Cullen said. “Right now, the factor limiting our ability to continue expanding eligibility remains the supply of vaccine. We have enough resources to continue accelerating our delivery. We just have to have the vaccine to do it.”

Those who are 65 and over and wish to register to receive the vaccine are advised to visit pima.gov.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccinations, visit webcms.pima.gov or call 520-222-0119.

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Anthony Victor Reyes

Anthony Victor Reyes is the lead digital content producer at News 4 Tucson. The award-winning journalist previously worked as a community reporter in Jasper County, Iowa.

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