PHOENIX, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services announced on Wednesday, Feb. 10, a partnership with the University of Arizona and the Pima County Health Department to operate a state vaccination site on the university’s mall area on central Tucson campus.
“Our state vaccination sites at State Farm Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium have been instrumental in Arizona’s work to vaccinate people quickly, efficiently and safely,” Ducey said. “We’re thrilled to partner with the University of Arizona and the Pima County Health Department to open a site in southern Arizona and rapidly expand vaccine distribution.”
The state vaccination site will expand the current capacity and hours of operation at the existing university site, which has a proven record of success in vaccinating students, faculty and staff.
The transition to a state site will add more appointments in a soft launch that will begin on Feb. 18. Registration for these appointments will open at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at podvaccine.azdhs.gov.
ADHS said the site will not immediately be open 24/7 due to short vaccine supply. The same has been the case with the Phoenix Municipal Stadium site. Priority 1B individuals and people 65 and older will be serviced at the UArizona site.
The partnership will also allow for expanded hours of operation, eventually operating 24/7 as more vaccine doses arrive in Arizona. At full capacity, the site can serve up to 6,000 people per day. The site will be up and running along the same timeframe the university plans to bring more students back on campus for in-person classes.
“What we’re hoping to be able to do is expand hours, expand access and provide additional resources to increase vaccination at this site,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director.
“Serving as a COVID-19 vaccine point of distribution (POD) and delivering more than 12,000 shots to local county members from first responders, K-12 and post K-12 educators and staff over the past two weeks has been a privilege for the University of Arizona, and we welcome the opportunity to provide the same service to southern Arizona as a 24/7 vaccination site for the state,” said University of Arizona President Dr. Bobby Robbins.
“Our POD has the capacity to deliver more vaccinations, and we look forward to working together to further meet the needs of Pima County and Arizonans. I am incredibly proud of our entire team of professionals and volunteers who have partnered closely with Pima County, established the university POD, and operated it so well.”
Pima County officials say they are thrilled by this announcement.
“The UA has been a wonderful partner with the County and the UA POD has been highly efficient, delivering more than 8,000 vaccines since it opened Jan. 20,” said Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson. “If this means there will be an increase in the number of vaccines coming to Pima County, then we will get more people vaccinated faster and get closer to bringing this terrible pandemic to end in southern Arizona. And if that is the case, I heartily thank Gov. Ducey for this assistance.”
ADHS said the vaccine supplying the UArizona state vaccine site will come from Pima County’s allotment. This is the same method the state said is used in Maricopa County for the state sites there.
There are some concerns vaccine would be pulled from other Pima County sites to supply the new state site. In an email, a spokesperson for Pima County said if the state does not pull much more than the roughly 1,000 a day the UA site is currently doing, “…the effect won’t be any greater than those we’re already experiencing with the diminished supply we’ve received from the state this week.”
However, the state said they reapplied over the weekend to the federal government to get 300,000 doses immediately, and for the following weeks. This could be great news for Pima County, and the new state site.
“If, as Dr. Christ said at her conference today, that more vaccine supply is on the way from the federal government, and subsequently to the counties, then the net impact to Pima County of having expanded vaccine delivery capacity is quite positive. It’s a win for everyone – the state, the UA, the county, county residents and the people of southern Arizona,” said a Pima County spokesperson.
The UA site will require registration through the ADHS site, which could be a learning curve for the community.
“Which may add to the frustration some people have experienced trying to get appointments,” said a Pima County spokesperson.
The county had no say in the state site location, and it was chosen entirely by the state. Pima County said they were “not formally included in the planning” until Tuesday and had heard through different news outlets and reports that the state might be planning a site at the University.
Under the county’s Accelerated Vaccination Plan, the County Health Department wants to have 300,000 people vaccinated by the end of March.
“We’re well ahead of that pace so far and with more vaccine and more capacity at the State’s POD at the UA, we could get there by the beginning of March instead of the end,” said Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen.
The vaccination site at the University of Arizona will be the third state site, and the first in Pima County.
On Jan. 11, Arizona opened its first state-run site at State Farm Stadium, where 178,084 vaccine doses have been administered. On Feb. 1, the state opened its vaccination site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where 14,946 vaccine doses have been administered. As of Tuesday, 954,290 vaccine doses have been administered across the state.