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Dry Runs Underway As Maricopa County Awaits COVID-19 Vaccines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as this week. Pending that decision, shipments of the vaccine  could arrive to Maricopa County and Pima County next week. 

Maricopa County is expected to get about 40,000 doses in the first shipment. The county is planning mass-vaccination events for health care workers at five “points of dispensing” or “PODs” across the county for those first doses.

“The dry runs are already happening starting this week and next week. Absolutely we are fine-tuning everything before we actually get the vaccine and start to open up the PODs and have those individuals come in and receive the vaccine," said Marcy Flanagan, executive director of Maricopa County Public Health. 

Flanagan said the first two POD sites ready to give vaccines will be run by Banner and HonorHealth.

“These are plans that have been in the works for many months, and so even all the sites that wouldn’t be going live next week have already started walking through the processes to make sure it’s as smooth as possible,” Flanagan said. 

In addition to health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities are also a priority group for the earliest available doses of vaccines. In Arizona, those populations will have access to vaccines through a collaboration program between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pharmacies. 

Flanagan expects it will still be several months before there are enough vaccines for the broader population. As COVID-19 continues to spread out of control in Arizona, health experts say social distancing practices are still critical. 

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.