With nearly 70 percent of people over 18 having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, County officials are shifting their focus to static sites such as pharmacies, doctors’ offices and clinics to vaccinate the remaining members of the population.
Vaccination rates among those 65 and older stood at almost 93 percent with 83 percent fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s data tracker.
Those increasing vaccination rates have led to the closure in the last week of standing PODs (Points of Distribution) at the University of Arizona, Udall Center (operated by Tucson Medical Center), El Pueblo Library and Tucson Mall. The POD at the County’s Kino Event Center closes July 2 and will shift to the third floor of the Abrams Public Health Center, 3950 S. Country Club Road, effective July 6.
Other partners played a vital role in getting the community vaccinated. Many lent space so that the County and its contracted vaccinators could take doses directly to where people were congregating, from churches and schools to shopping malls and sporting events. Many of those events were held on evenings and weekends to boost attendance and will continue well into the summer.
The County also offered numerous incentives to encourage vaccinations. Those receiving their first dose of the vaccine got $2 Scratcher tickets as part of a partnership with the Arizona Lottery. Vaccine events at Reid Park Zoo and Pima Air and Space Museum featured passes for free admittance. And several local radio stations sent staff to vaccination PODs where they promoted the vaccines and offered raffles, giveaways and other prizes.
The County is still offering plenty of sites where people can get vaccinated. County health clinics are offering vaccines in addition to the site at Abrams. And a handful of pop-up sites will still be offered throughout the community. You also can find vaccines at pharmacies and a growing number of doctors’ offices.
In addition to the closure of some of the standing PODs, June 26 also marked the last day of vaccinations at two PODs operated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has had staff on site for the last eight weeks inoculating people from mostly underserved populations.
“The strong partnership with Pima County increased vaccine access to the county’s most heavily affected communities,” said FEMA Region 9 Administrator Bob Fenton.
Indeed, FEMA assisted Pima County in vaccinating 8,124 people against COVID-19, including 59 percent who identify as Hispanic and 66 percent from minority populations.
“Our collective mission continues: To ensure everyone who wants a vaccine can get one, which will slow the spread and protect our individual and community health,” Fenton said.
Dr. Theresa Cullen, the director of the Pima County Health Department, saw the partnership with FEMA as a win-win.
"We're grateful that working with FEMA helped the health department further our goal of putting the vaccine within easier reach of traditionally underserved areas and populations," Cullen said. "This was exactly what we wanted to accomplish, and this was an invaluable step in our health equity mission. We look forward to an ongoing relationship with FEMA in the future."
Cullen’s equally grateful to the numerous community partners who contributed in ways large and small. At a June 25 ceremony marking the close of the state-operated POD at the University of Arizona, Cullen hailed UA President Dr. Bobby Robbins, staff and volunteers for administering one of every four vaccinations in the County.
“The University’s ability to mobilize and serve its faculty, staff and students as well as the general public to assist with the national effort truly embodies the Bear Down Spirit,” read a Certificate of Appreciation Cullen presented to Robbins.
In addition to those pop-up events within the community, the County also will continue to use social media and other methods to encourage vaccinations.
“I continue to caution people that we’re not out of the woods yet,” Cullen said. “The Delta variant has been detected in every state in the country and 95 percent of people contracting COVID are not vaccinated. So, please, please, get vaccinated if you haven’t already. It’s our best chance of beating this pandemic.”
Photo provided by Pima County Health Department