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Guest opinion

Kozachik: UA's COVID vaccination site is 'skimming doses' in a net negative for Tucson region

Working directly with the Arizona Department of Health Services and bypassing Pima County health officials, the University of Arizona plans to open a state vaccine Point of Distribution on the UA mall. This will be detrimental to the county's efforts to get vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable in our community.

Since the pandemic began, UA leadership's efforts to be ground zero for all-things-COVID have negatively impacted the surrounding community.

They refused to mandate testing for off-campus students, falsely claiming a constitutional ban. The city of Tucson and Pima County funded the work.

The UA invited students back into the region while the pandemic was surging. The result was the UA zip code becoming the county-wide COVID hot spot.

Now comes the UA sidestepping the regional health care authority and dealing directly with Gov. Doug Ducey, establishing a campus vaccination POD. Vaccination doses going to the state POD will count against the county's allotment.

This week the state has reduced the Pima County vaccine allotment by 40%. What the state takes for the UA POD decreases the amount the county has to administer at other sites.

A recent mobile vaccination site led by the Pima County Health Department was conducted with the intent of addressing the disparity that exists in vaccine distribution. At that site, 72% of the vaccines given went to Hispanic residents. Hispanics constitute only 3.7% of people vaccinated at state-run PODs.

The Pima County Health Department is the health authority for this region. The UA's newest effort to gain attention, by becoming the local 24/7 state-run POD, will have a negative impact on the county efforts to vaccinate a diverse population, including those unable to navigate the new state-operated registration system.

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The vaccine supply is controlled by the state. The UA must not exploit its relationship as an arm of the state by effectively "skimming doses off the top" while the county continues operating in a position where demand is significantly outstripping its state allocation.

Steve Kozachik represents Ward 6 on the Tucson City Council. Contact him at at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (520) 791-4601.

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1 comment on this story

Feb 17, 2021, 2:56 pm
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When the UA opened its vaccine program several weeks ago, employees well under the age of 65 who work administrative jobs at home and have no contact with any other university employee or student have received their inoculations, at the expense of older people in the community. That must be the price Bobby Robbins exacted from the state/county to open up his expensive real estate on the UA Mall.

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