TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -We’re getting a first look at how state health officials hope to protect the public from COVID-19.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) submitted its COVID-19 vaccination plan to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
However, paying for distribution may be the least of the state’s worries. Even when a vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many say they won’t take it.
“The first vaccines that we think are going to come out are highly cold chain sensitive, which means we have to have freezing down to -70, perhaps -80 degrees,” said Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
The Pima County Health Department (PCHD) is in the early stages of conversations, as many variables are still up in the air.
“TMC and Banner have volunteered to be the first pods that we use when we get the vaccines,” Cullen said.
Dr. Andrew Carroll is a family physician who has been involved in the vaccination program Arizona is rolling out.
“I know Dr. Cara Christ pretty well; I know her team. I think the plan they put in place is very parallel to what we did with the H1N1 vaccine which worked very well,” said Carroll. “So, the plan that [AZDHS] has laid out along with the CDC is to try to reach the high-risk groups first.”
The high-risk category includes healthcare workers and (depending on availability) seniors, teachers, childcare providers and those with chronic conditions.
Phase 2 includes the critical population; those who live in coronavirus hotspots, minorities, inmates, people with disabilities and the homeless.
Phase 3 opens vaccines up to the general public.
“Obviously, it’s got to be very widespread,” said Carroll. “We want to get people immunized as fast as we can.”
A quick vaccine is drawing some skepticism, though.
In our KOLD News 13 Facebook poll, more than 60 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t get the vaccine.
Some flat out rejected the idea, others worry not enough research has been done. One man said he will follow his doctor’s advice.
Carroll says he would never ask his patients to do something he wouldn’t, pointing out he could be one of the first to get the vaccine.
“I’m going to be looking at the science, looking at the FDA studies, looking at each vaccine, making sure not only are they safe and effective before I put them in my body, [but] the bodies of my employees and my patients,” he said. “I’m hoping that within one to three months after we are able to deliver at least 50 to 70 per cent of vaccines, our [COVID-19] numbers will be almost undetectable.”
Best case scenario, officials say a vaccine could be ready for Phase 1 at the start of 2021.