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Under New Plan, Arizona Expects 45-Year-Olds Can Get Vaccinated In April, 35-Year-Olds In May

Arizona is changing the way it prioritizes who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Health care workers, law enforcement and educators were among the first to be offered vaccines in Arizona, but the new plan bases the next phases of eligibility more on age than occupation.

Earlier this week, the Arizona Department of Health Services  announced Arizonans 55 and older would be able to get shots at state-run vaccine sites and many pharmacies. Department director, Dr. Cara Christ, said over the next few months, the state plans to continue expanding eligibility based on age.

“At the beginning of March we moved into age 55 and above, at the beginning of April we believe we’ll be at 45 and above, at the end of April or beginning of May, 35 and above, and then we’ll open it up to everybody four-to-five weeks after that," Christ told reporters Wednesday. 

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Previously, Arizona's age limit for vaccines had been 65. The state had planned to open eligibility to essential workers and adults with high-risk medical conditions after that. But Christ said the revised, age-based plan will get high-risk populations vaccinated faster.

“When we looked at 55 and above, that’s responsible for 65% of hospitalizations and 90% of all deaths in Arizona," Christ said.

Under the revised guidelines, county health departments will still be able to offer vaccinations to essential workers and other groups. At a vaccination event at a low-income senior housing complex Tuesday, Maricopa County Public Health executive director Marcy Flanagan said the county health department is shifting its focus away from mass vaccination sites toward events that target vulnerable populations. 

"We have been expanding our efforts to bringing vaccine to where people are," Flanagan said. "This helps address barriers such as transportation, internet access and others."  

Maricopa County has already hosted dozens of vaccination events for K-12 school employees and child care workers. Christ said she expects counties will organize similar pop-up vaccination sites for grocery workers, transportation workers, or other occupational groups in coming weeks. 

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