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Sun, Feb. 28

Weather delays shots in rural areas

Arizona State Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said Friday,  Feb. 19 that the state will attempt to make up for vaccine doses that couldn’t be delivered to rural county last week due to weather disruptions in other parts of the country. (File photo by Howard Fischer/For the Miner)

Arizona State Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said Friday, Feb. 19 that the state will attempt to make up for vaccine doses that couldn’t be delivered to rural county last week due to weather disruptions in other parts of the country. (File photo by Howard Fischer/For the Miner)

PHOENIX – Rural Arizona counties forced to cancel or postpone vaccination appointments because of delayed shipments of thousands of doses will hopefully receive them next week, health officials said Friday.

Extreme winter weather is behind a lag of roughly 89,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Smaller counties paid the price since Moderna is earmarked for them because of its less stringent storage requirements.

Mohave County was among those impacted when it failed to receive its weekly amount of 3,000 doses. The county as a result had to pause plans to phase in those 65 and older, educators and child care workers, Roger Galloway, a county spokesman, said in a statement. It was a snag for an “already scarce vaccine allotment,” he added.

The state will aim to adjust next week's allotments for the counties accordingly to include doses for all the appointments that didn't happen.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a lot more Moderna next weekend and can get to some of those appointments that were canceled,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services, told reporters during virtual briefing.

Arizona's weekly Pfizer vaccine allotment of roughly 85,800 was also initially delayed but arrived mid-week. Among the locations where Pfizer doses are administered are the two state-run mass vaccination sites in Phoenix and a third that opened at the University of Arizona in Tucson on Thursday. There was no disruption to appointments as the state was able to redistribute some Pfizer doses, Christ said.

Meanwhile, the state gave a big boost to COVID-19 testing with an announcement of $100 million of federal funding divided among the 15 counties. Each county will get a base amount. Additional funding will be based on need and population.

Each county can use the funds for areas like staffing and laboratory testing.

The state Department of Health Services said the $100 million represents an initial allocation to the counties and is being provided for staffing, laboratory usage and other activities related to virus testing. This comes after Pima County officials’ recent declaration that they might have to suspend COVID-19 testing.

Arizona received $418.9 million in January from the federal government for COVID-19 testing and related work and must submit a budget by mid-March to detail how it will spend the money, the department said.

In addition, the state will use some of the money for statewide testing programs, including testing done by Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, the department said.

The state reported 1,918 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 145 deaths, increasing Arizona's pandemic totals to 804,116 cases and 15,421 deaths.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, hospitalized COVID-19 patients occupied 1,738 inpatient beds as of Thursday, about a third of the pandemic high of 5,082 on Jan. 11.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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