AZ has a new plan to get vaccine hesitant to comply

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 7:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The state of Arizona is lagging when it comes to vaccinations with just more than half the state’s adult population fully vaccinated.

The Pima County Health Department says that’s not enough to stop the transmission of the Delta variant saying it needs 90% to 95%.

Getting there will be difficult if not impossible but the state will give it a shot, so to speak.

Gov. Doug Ducey has hired former US Surgeon General and Tucsonan Dr. Richard Carmona to find ways to get more people vaccinated.

In his first public action, Dr. Carmona released a statement on the AZDHS Director’s blog entitled, “Changing the Narrative Key to Expanding Vaccination Against COVID-19.”

In it, Dr. Carmona says the state needs to “separate politics from public health.”

That will be hard to do since the pandemic has become highly polarized.

“The governor asked me to help and I said I’d be happy to,” Dr. Carmona said. “But I’m not going to engage in any political debates because they really are fruitless.”

Which means he’s not talking mandates, mask or vaccine, but he said “I don’t think that’s a worthwhile endeavor to continue that discussion because that’s already a law.”

Laws against mandates were passed late in the legislative session but several cities and school districts have challenged them and they remain in court for the time being.

So what’s Dr. Carmona going to do?

“It’s not only about health care, it’s about our economic health, it’s about economic prosperity, it’s about keeping t doors of our restaurants open, our businesses open,” he said. “So vaccination is the key to that.”

Dr. Carmona says the key to success is to tailor the message to whomever he’s targeting.

“When I speak to the Hispanic community, the Native American community, the seniors, the children, the teenagers, college students, the message has to be drafted appropriately so that it inspires the behavior change we want,” he said. “Which is vaccination.”

But there are many areas of resistance especially among police officer and firefighters.

The city of Tucson passed a mask mandate which it says has been successful in getting nearly 83% of its workers vaccinated but is looking to increase that more.

A total of 617 of the city’s nearly 4,000 employees have applied for religious or medical exemptions rather than get the shots.

Of that number, 371 of them come from police and fire, the two biggest city departments.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Ana Urquijo, an Assistant Tucson City Manager. “I think based on the size of our organization, I couldn’t tell you if its high or not since there’s no benchmark.”

But she says four people are checking to see if the requests are valid but any penalties are on pause while the city is in a legal battle with the state.

“If there’s some that need to have a little inspiration guidance to make the right decision, I’m ready to help,” Dr. Carmona said.

And when it comes to stopped the spread, help is something the state needs a lot of these days.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.