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Essential workers frustrated as Arizona adopts ‘hybrid’ vaccination approach


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    PHOENIX (KTVK/KPHO) — A phased plan has now turned hybrid for the state of Arizona.

The state’s sudden change on its vaccine rollout plan has some who were next in the line for the shot frustrated, as they’re now pushed back weeks, possibly months. The big question is, why the change?

State health officials say they’re taking a hybrid approach, deciding to vaccinate 55 and older first given their illness risk.

Since the beginning of the vaccine rollout there’s been a lot of confusion because the state pods and county pods had different qualifications.

At the time, both were following a similar phase plan.

Now that the state has changed its course, it leaves some essential workers waiting longer.

“We have colleagues still getting sick with COVID,” said Cindy Vargas, a pharmacy technician at a Fry’s grocery store.

While Vargas is vaccinated, most of her essential worker colleagues in the store are not and were expecting to be soon.

“It’s very confusing,” she said. “We work with the public every day. The grocery store’s open for 18 hours a day. People are here from the time it opens to the time it closes.”

State officials say that those 55+ can start making their appointments at noon on Tuesday, March 2.

Originally, both the state and Maricopa County were following a phased approach to vaccine distribution.

Maricopa County has been in the 1B priority phase, and next would have been the full 1B group, including essential workers. Now, that’s changed for the state.

Instead, a spokesperson said they’re taking a hybrid approach, deciding to vaccinate 55 and older first given their illness risk.

“More than 80% of all of the severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 occur in that group,” said University of Arizona College of Medicine doctor Shad Marvasti.

Dr. Marvasti said while there is a benefit to this, there’s also a Catch 22 in making essential workers and younger folks wait longer.

“On the other hand, 80% or more of the spread of COVID in terms of where cases are coming from occur in the 20 to 54 age range,” he said.

A Maricopa County spokesperson said they’re staying the course in the phased approach, and now trying to re-determine the timeline to get essential workers vaccinated faster in the 1B group.

The county said its pods don’t have as much vaccine as the state pods and they’re also not open 24 hours like the state sites, so for the county, it’s going to take a delegated effort.

“They’re also doing the more local outreach with local pharmacies, community centers, local clinics,” Dr. Marvasti said.

The county spokesperson said really the lack of supply is what’s hurting them right now.

He said they plan to communicate the county’s plan for vaccinating essential workers next week, but said realistically, they expect demand to outweigh supply here for one to two more months.

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