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Public Health Director: Vaccines, patience in ‘short supply’

Kingman-area residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations at Uptown Drug, 2820 E. Andy Devine Ave., Kingman. (Uptown Drug courtesy photo)

Kingman-area residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations at Uptown Drug, 2820 E. Andy Devine Ave., Kingman. (Uptown Drug courtesy photo)

KINGMAN – Mohave County has administered 13,700 doses of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, which is 66% of the allocation it has received from the state, county Public Health Director Denise Burley told the county board of supervisors on Monday, Feb. 1.

Including 2,000 doses that arrived this week, according to Burley, the county is at 60% when it comes to administration of all vaccines it received, while the goal is to be at 80%.

Burley reminded the supervisors that the county is currently vaccinating groups 1A – health-care workers and employees and residents of long-term care facilities – and several sub-groups of 1B – protective services employees and residents age 75 and older.

“We are maintaining these phases for a couple of important reasons,” she said. “It’s a very important group for us to reach.”

More than 70% of the county’s COVID-19 deaths have been in age groups over 70, and there are more than 28,000 county residents age 75 or older. Then there are 37,000 persons ages 65 to 74, Burley said.

“When we move into that (65-74 age group) and we add educators, we are going to be there for a while,” Burley said.

She appealed to the public to “stay with the phase,” adding providers will not vaccinate those who make appointments but don’t qualify. Those pointless appointments also slow the whole process down.

“I know patience is in short supply,” Burley said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Buster Johnson observed the county seems weeks away from vaccinating the 65-74 age group.

“That’s correct,” Burley said. “We need to make sure the vaccine is distributed and administered very quickly. … If we notice the facility does not utilize the vaccines quickly, we will ask them to send it to other sites, but keep it in the community it was allocated to.”

Since Mohave County receives only the Moderna vaccine, patients will be able to go anywhere in the county to get the second dose, Burley said. She said businesses such as Smith’s, Safeway, Albertsons, Walmart, Kroger and Costco will soon join the effort.

“How are the providers paid,” asked Supervisor Ron Gould of District 5. “I was wondering what the motivation is for those providers to participate in the program ...”

Burley said the vaccination is free and “if someone is uninsured, they get vaccinated anyway.” She said providers are helping the community so the county should support them. She also emphasized that reporting all those vaccination efforts back to the state will be another crucial part of the effort to move ahead to other populations.

Another issue is the large population of winter visitors that come to Mohave County a few months each year. The problem was raised by Supervisor Jean Bishop of District 4, who said the allocation of vaccines to Mohave County is inadequate.

“This is a valid concern,” Bishop said. “Our snowbird population is getting the vaccines allocated to Mohave County. Lake Havasu has approximately 20,000 winter visitors. If they are using up the vaccines of full-time county residents, that doesn’t seem quite fair.”

“I think Arizona should receive half of Wyoming’s allotment,” Gould said, “because I’m fully convinced that half the state of Wyoming is in Arizona.”

“Our snowbirds are the lifeline of our economy,” disagreed Supervisor Hildy Angius of District 2. “I think nobody has a problem with vaccinating our snowbirds.”

She added “the problem is we get our allocation based on the population,” indicating Mohave County should get more doses.

Burley said those visitors remain in the community for months at a time. They come to local hospitals for services, she said, and therefore should get vaccinated.

“We were told our winter visitors were taken under consideration with the allocation,” she said, “because we were not alone. Pinal, Pima, Yuma and La Paz counties also said that would be an issue.”

Burley said the expectation is states will work with each other. For example, Laughlin residents often end up in Western Arizona Medical Center in Bullhead City. Therefore, as Angius pointed out and Burley agreed, current vaccination efforts in Laughlin that are open to residents 75 and older should be available to locals on the Arizona side.

At Laughlin Aquatic Center, they do 600 vaccinations per day, Angius said.

Burley also provided the local hospitals report. January was better than December, but ICU beds “remain dangerously full across the county,” she said, with this week resulting in the highest occupancy since the beginning of the pandemic.

Three local hospitals declared 0-1 ICU beds available, and all report staffing issues and an increase in COVID-19 admissions, Burley said. The usage of ICU beds is at 84% and 46% of patients are COVID-19 patients. About 97% of in-patient beds are being occupied, with a third of them being COVID-19 patients.

On a positive note, “we did see a decrease in the last couple of weeks in case counts,” Burley said. “It cut in half in the last two weeks.”

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