The Arizona Department of Health Services is asking health care providers, especially pediatricians, to prioritize vaccinations over the fear of vaccine wastage.
ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said they had heard that some providers may be fearful of opening a bottle to pull out a couple of doses when they may not have to use the other doses on the same day. She said while they continue to minimize waste, it should not be at the expense of vaccinating someone.
“In the beginning when vaccine was in very, very short supply and we had high demand, we were very, very careful about using every single dose of vaccine,” said Christ. “If you do have to open a vial to extract just a couple of doses, take that opportunity, get that individual vaccinated because we don't want any missed opportunities for our providers. And while we do want to minimize vaccine wastage, getting people vaccinated and preventing hospitalization and death is very important.”
The state hopes more providers will register to become COVID-19 vaccinators and receive COVID-19 vaccine. To order vaccine, providers would need to become pandemic vaccine providers through the state or a federal program.
As of May 17, eligible health providers can order all types of COVID-19 vaccine directly from the CDC, without an allocation from their local health department, said Christ.
Previously, eligible providers could order only Moderna. With eligible providers able to request an allocation of Pfizer they would be able to administer the vaccine to children 12 to 15. More information on Pima County vaccination spots.
Christ said they anticipated that about 385,000 Arizonans became eligible for Pfizer after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval of the FDA’s emergency use authorization of Pfizer for children 12 to 15.
In Arizona, more than 1,600 provider sites have received vaccine and more than 300 locations offer Pfizer to those 12 and older, with 169 providers ordering more than 40,000 doses, said Christ. More information on becoming a pandemic vaccine provider here.
During the pandemic, Christ said they have seen a drop in routine immunizations, so they were excited to hear the COVID-19 vaccine could be co-administered with other childhood vaccines.
The CDC had previously recommended the COVID-19 vaccine be administered alone, waiting at least two weeks before or after receiving any other vaccine.
“This will make it easy on families and providers to make sure that they're not missing an opportunity to vaccinate for any type of vaccine,” said Christ.
Christ recognized barriers for smaller providers or local doctor’s offices in registering and administering the COVID-19 vaccine, including storage limitations and the requirement to order at least 1,140 doses. She said they had heard the minimum order for the number of vials could be reduced to reach more practices.
“We would just encourage you to work with your local health department or work with our immunization office if you want to be onboarded. We'll help you through the process and hopefully be able to get you that vaccine pretty quickly.”
The state has administered more than 5.6 million vaccinations as of Friday, with 44.3% of Arizonans getting at least one dose. In Arizona, 83.2% of those 65 and older have received at least one dose.
According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on May 18, Arizona has a higher percentage of vaccinations in rural counties than urban areas.
The CDC found that 59% of those 18 and older in Navajo, Apache, Gila, Santa Cruz, Graham, La Paz, and Greenlee counties had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of April 10, and 43.9% of those 18 and older in urban counties, which the CDC classified as counties like Pinal and Pima.
“Arizona’s ranking among rural counties calls attention not just to the strong vaccination efforts of our tribal nations but to the good work of local public health departments in these areas,” said Christ in a news release. “Local authorities are the boots on the ground for public health in Arizona and have worked diligently to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine will have the greatest impact.”
The Pima County Health Department continues its vaccination efforts through pop-up clinics, with some mobile sites offering Pfizer. The mobile clinics had primarily offered Moderna and Johnson & Johnson due to the storage requirements. However, after the approval of Pfizer for those 12 and older, the county, with allocation from the state, expanded the availability of Pfizer for all FEMA mobile clinics as well as school pop-up sites.
According to the county health department from March 13 through March 18, 3,994 12- to 15-year-olds received at least one dose of Pfizer.