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Pima County expands COVID vaccination eligibility to all essential workers

Residents with high-risk conditions also eligible for coronavirus shots at county sites

Pima County residents who work in essential jobs or have high-risk medical conditions are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations at county-run sites, officials announced Wednesday. Sign-ups will begin Thursday morning.

The county will also vaccinate anyone age 55 or older, but is maintaining some criteria — based on health risks, housing status and employment — for those 16-55 years old. The single state-run site in Pima County, at the University of Arizona, began offering shots to anyone 16 and up on Wednesday, but has had limited open slots.

"We realize that this is not fully aligned with what Gov. (Doug) Ducey announced earlier this week; however, our decisions are based on the current vaccination rates for 55 and up (which is at 42 percent), as well as our commitment to ensure ongoing access to vulnerable populations," Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the county Health Department, said in a news release. "We anticipate appointments will be filled quickly and as we move these groups, we look forward to being able to align with the state's recommendations within the next six weeks."

Most appointments available for the large county-supported vaccination sites will be for mid-late April, officials said. People will be able to sign up under the expanded guidelines starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The three sets of criteria for coronavirus vaccinations at county sites are:

Age: Anyone over age 55, regardless of other health conditions or type of employment.

Risk: Anyone over age 16 who has a disability OR is experiencing homelessness OR lives in a congregate setting/receives in-home or long-term care OR has a high-risk medical condition as defined by the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Downs syndrome
  • Heart conditions (including heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies)
  • Immunocompromised state aka weakened immune system, from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (Body Max Index (BMI) over 30 kg/m2 or higher or < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Work: Anyone over age 16 who works in the following fields, regardless of other health conditions:

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  • Healthcare worker and healthcare support
  • Emergency medical services
  • Long-term care facility staff
  • In-home long-term care
  • Protective services
  • Education and childcare
  • Food and agriculture
  • Restaurants and bars
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Manufacturing
  • Grocery and convenience stores (including carnicerias)
  • State and local government
  • Public transportation (buses, light rail, Uber, Lyft, taxis, etc.)
  • Auto repair
  • Business/financial services
  • Clergy/faith leaders/ traditional healers
  • Court personnel
  • Critical trade (plumber, electrician, HVAC, etc.)
  • Food packaging
  • Funeral services
  • Gas stations
  • Power/utility
  • Shelters
  • Warehouse distribution
  • Veterinarians and veterinary staff
  • Members of the press

There have been 16,842 Arizonans who have died from COVID-19, with 44 deaths added to the total count on Wednesday morning. Four new deaths were reported in Pima County — among the 2,338 residents who have died from coronavirus here.

There were 605 new reported COVID-19 infections in the state Wednesday, following 507 new cases added on Tuesday. More than 837,000 Arizonans have been reported as testing positive for coronavirus infections, with nearly 112,000 cases just in Pima County to date.

"We continue to push forward vaccinations at a rapid pace," said Cullen. "We know this expansion includes several thousand people who have eagerly awaited their turn, and we are grateful for their enthusiasm to not only get their vaccine, but also their continued mask-wearing and physical distancing as well."

As of March 23, more than 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Pima County, and 200,000 people have been fully vaccinated. The county has surpassed its goal of administering 300,000 doses by the end of March, officials said.

For all of the registration options in Pima County or to get more information about who is currently eligible for an appointment, visit www.pima.gov/covid19vaccine.

To schedule an appointment at the State supported vaccination site, visit Arizona Department of Health Service portal to schedule an appointment, https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

For questions about registration or help with the registration process, you can also call Pima County Health Department's registration support line at 520-222-0119, Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Vaccinations at Tucson Medical Center on Jan. 15, 2021.