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Arizona might not meet 70% vaccination goal by July 4, health official says
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Arizona might not meet 70% vaccination goal by July 4, health official says

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Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona's health chief. 

PHOENIX — The state’s top health official said Arizona may not meet President Biden’s goal of getting 70% of residents vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4.

“Historically, Arizona has had pockets of vaccine hesitancy, even before COVID-19,’’ Dr. Cara Christ said Friday. “That kind of sets a baseline.’’

At the same time, she said, there has been a sharp decline in the number of vaccines being administered.

“A lot of Arizonans are independent. They want to make these decisions on their own,’’ said Christ.

Her prime weapon is getting information out about the vaccines and how they are safe, effective and free, she said.

Christ said she still thinks Arizona can get to 70% — eventually.

She noted there is a “wait and see’’ group sitting on the sidelines, waiting for some specific reason to get inoculated and watching for reports of side effects.

“But if there was an uptick in cases, maybe those wait-and-sees would be, ‘All right, maybe I’m not going to wait and see anymore; I’m going to get vaccinated,’ ‘’ Christ said.

The flagging interest in getting inoculated is reflected in the numbers.

At its peak, the sites run by her Arizona Department of Health Services were administering more than 169,000 doses a week. On one day in particular, Christ said, more than 12,000 shots were put into arms in a 24-hour period.

By contrast, only 13,000 doses were given out all of last week at all of the state-run sites.

These facts played into Christ’s decision earlier this week to shut down all the state-run mass vaccination sites, which will administer their last shots in arms by June 28.

Arizonans are still getting ill, however.

On Friday, the health department reported another 346 new cases and 20 additional deaths. That brings the total number of known deaths to 17,673.

Also, 5% of tests for the virus came back positive in the latest numbers.

Christ said there will be a continued move to get the vaccines into the community, ranging from availability at pharmacies and grocery stores, to pop-up clinics, to other community-based events.

More than 260 doctors are taking advantage of their ability to get the vaccine directly and have already ordered close to 58,000 doses, she said.

The decision to shutter the state-run sites is not permanent, especially if there is a new outbreak — which remains a possibility, Christ said.

“We’re always watching for a potential surge in cases, given there’s so many unknowns about COVID-19 and potential variants,’’ she said. For the moment, though, she said there has been a “stabilization’’ in cases.

“If there is another demand we can stand these sites up relatively quickly,’’ she said, pointing out it took less than a week to get the site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale operating.

Separately, Christ continues to push for parents to get their teens, ages 12 and up, vaccinated now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer vaccine for that age group.

But she said that requires parents paying attention to where they make their appointments, as not all sites have the Pfizer vaccine, which has more stringent storage requirements than the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Arizona continues to look at incentives to get people vaccinated, though nowhere near the million-dollar lotteries being operated by some states.

The closest is an arrangement with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Blue Cross/Blue Shield for an event at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix on Saturday where kids can run the bases and, once they get a second inoculation, get a free ticket to a future baseball game.


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