Arizonans 75 and older moved to a higher priority slot for COVID vaccine

(Twitter photo / @ CVSHealth)

PHOENIX – The panel of health professionals who recommend the COVID-19 vaccination recommendations in Arizona moved adults 75 years and older to a higher position on Monday.

The 75-and-older group is now part of a new classification, Prioritized 1B, which also includes teachers, child care workers and law enforcement, according to the latest recommendations on the award of the Vaccine and Antiviral Priority Advisory Committee.

An estimated 530,000 Arizonans are 75 and older, a demographic at increased risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the coronavirus. The reprioritization is expected to help reduce the burden on Arizona hospitals, which are under the weight of record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

‘While looking at the prioritization, this is what we are trying to do to make sure that those who have the worst outcomes, such as hospitalizations and death, should be prioritized early to get the vaccine, which will protect people from possible death,’ “The director of Arizona’s Department of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ, said KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

Priority 1B is just behind 1A in the state plan, which now contains four levels of priority populations. The change does not affect residents of long-term care facilities, which are part of Phase 1A and have already started receiving vaccinations.

Chris said the process of letting people in the new classification know they are eligible will vary by country and is still being worked out.

“We will make announcements as we get more information on how to register, but we are looking at many different mechanisms,” she said.

“We are working with the provinces to determine if they will have vaccination sites for masses, if they can go to pharmacies, or be mobile vaccinations clinics for humans.”

Vaccinations for priority 1B are expected to begin in mid to late January, although in some provinces it may start earlier, Christ said.

Christ said she expects the last priority phases to be completed by February or March, with Phase 2, the general population, beginning in March or April.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, adults aged 75 and older who contract COVID-19 are eight times more likely to be hospitalized and 220 times more likely to die than those aged 18-29.

In the previous version of the plan, which was updated on December 14, the state’s approximately 1.2 million adults aged 65 and older were prioritized in Phase 1C, which was then the third of three priority groups. There was no separate category for people 75 years and older.

The Vaccination and Antiviral Priority Advisory Committee meets regularly to make recommendations on how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine fairly in Arizona while stocks are limited.

The committee consists of state, local and tribal experts, including representatives from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Local health officials or tribal authorities can tailor the recommendations according to their needs.

Monday’s update joins new recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Christ said.

Vaccination began in Arizona two weeks ago for people in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers, emergency medical staff and residents, and long-term care facilities.

Christ said nearly 40,000 shots have been fired so far in Arizona.

Federal officials have approved emergency use for two vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, with efficacy rates above 90%. Both require two shots with a few weeks apart for full effectiveness.

The Modern vaccines are more easily distributed in various fields because they can be stored in ordinary freezers.

The Pfizer vaccines, currently being given at five locations across the Phoenix subway, must be kept in exceptionally cold temperatures in specially designed freezers.

Ali Vetnar, KTAR News 92.3 FM, contributed to this report.

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