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Pima County eyes community immunity by summer 2021

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 9:09 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 23, 2021 at 9:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - After a pause for a few days, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been cleared for use again by the Centers for Disease Control.

A couple of hours later the Arizona State Health Department issued a statement by its director, Dr. Cara Christ.

“After recommending a pause out of an abundance of caution, we join our federal partners in encouraging everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with the vaccine available to you,” ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said. “Arizonans can be confident that all COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, have undergone a thorough review for safety and efficacy. The federal review will continue on all of the vaccines as more people are vaccinated.”

It’s also good news for Pima County which has set a goal of gaining community immunity by the end of June.

“J&J was actually the most commonly requested, it was the only brand that was being requested when we were doing our vaccination POD’s,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Chief Medical Officer for Pima County.

One reason for its popularity is that it’s a one-dose vaccine rather than two.

J&J was used in those hard-to-reach areas where making a second trip for a follow-up dose would be difficult for the homeless who are transitory.

Now with it in use again, the county can move full steam ahead on its plans of taking the vaccine to the people rather than always have the people come to the vaccine.

The County Health Department is standing by its required mask mandate until enough people are vaccinated, an estimated 632,000, to achieve herd immunity, a point where enough people are vaccinated that the virus can’t find more hosts and spread.

But the number of people anxious to get the vaccine has waned in recent weeks.

“So we know that a lot of people are not truly resistant but are just hesitant,” Dr. Garcia said.

So the question becomes how to get the fence-sitters off the fence.

The county believes in saturating the market.

“We’re hoping to make the vaccine so ubiquitous throughout the county, whether it’s on Fourth Avenue or in one of these (mobile) POD’s or at a fixed site, we’re trying to make it so ubiquitous that essentially you fall into a needle without much effort,” Garcia said.

Some of that may be accomplished if the county receives six FEMA mobile POD’s it’s asked for. The county believes approval for those mobile sites could come at any time.

“In my mind, it’s not about changing people’s minds,” he said. “But about making the opportunity so obvious and barrier-free that the default will be to get vaccinated rather than not.”

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