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Arizona to open state-run COVID vaccination sites to everyone 16 and older

All Arizona residents will be eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at state-run sites beginning Wednesday, officials said Monday morning.

Sign-ups for coronavirus shots will open this week in an expansion of eligibility, from people aged 55 and older and certain "essential" workers, to all residents.

The University of Arizona vaccination site is the only state-operated shot clinic in Pima County.

County officials did not immediately indicate if they would shift the qualifications for other sites, which are overseen by the county Health Department. The county Board of Supervisors scheduled an emergency meeting to review the state of vaccination efforts here, set for Wednesday morning, after the state announced the change.

"Our goal has been and remains to get vaccine into the community as quickly, widely and equitably as possible," said Gov. Doug Ducey.

"Given a thorough review of vaccination data, anticipated vaccine supply, and current demand among prioritized groups, now is the time to take this critical next step," the governor said in a press release Monday morning.

In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has plummeted from a peak in mid-January, and the number of hospitalizations has also declined. On Jan. 12, nearly two-thirds of adult intensive care hospital beds were occupied by someone with COVID-19, and last week that had declined to just 10 percent.

Overall, 16,745 Arizonans have died from COVID-19 since March 2020, including 2,326 deaths in Pima County.

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Ducey and other state officials have not coordinated their coronavirus decisions with officials at the county, or the city of Tucson. Local health officials have repeatedly been taken by surprise when the state announces a change.

"We anticipate more and more vaccine reaching Arizona heading into April, making it possible now to expand prioritization," said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The state has delivered about 2.9 million doses of the vaccine. About 1.8 million people have received at least one dose, and about 1.1 million people are fully vaccinated, according to figures from ADHS.

Sites using the Pfizer vaccine, including those run by the state, can vaccinate those 16 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines, which are allocated to counties, are approved for those 18 and older.

The expanded sign-ups for vaccination appointments will be opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine. Those without computer access or needing extra help registering can call 1-844-542-8201 to be connected with someone who can assist. Note: You can use the patient portal at podvaccine.azdhs.gov to make an appointment for a relative.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

The University of Arizona vaccination site.