Coconino County expects vaccine doses to double
Seniors encouraged to call county for help registering
WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Coconino County health officials are hopeful that additional doses of the COVID-19 will be arriving soon following the Biden administration’s announcement that it is expanding access to vaccines and freeing up more doses for states and pharmacies.
“Like always, things are ever evolving and changing at a moment’s notice,” said Kim Musselman, interim director of Coconino County Health and Human Services (CCHHS), in a Feb. 2 presentation to the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.
Musselman said the county has administered 13,575 first doses of the vaccine, with 43 percent administered by the county and 57 percent by its health partners.
According to a Feb. 6 vaccine report from Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), Coconino County has administered more than 23,685 total vaccine doses, or 106 percent of its allocation — the number exceeding 100 percent because of additional doses have been received by pharmacies and retail vaccination sites from the federal government.
The county is currently administering 200-300 daily doses at the Ft. Tuthill site, and 400-500 through its health partners such as Flagstaff Medical Center and North Country Health Care.
However, Musselman said the county and its partners are capable of administering many more vaccines but are limited by the vaccine availability.
“We far exceed the capacity to administer at this point in time,” she said. “(We) likely could easily do 3,500 upwards per day with the existing plans that are already in place.”
With the announcement of increasing doses by the Biden administration, Coconino County expects to receive 14,800 doses of the vaccine in the next three weeks, which breaks down to 705 doses per day.
“It doubles the number of doses administered according to this plan over the next few weeks,” said Eslir Musta, deputy director of public works for Coconino County.
In addition, one million doses will also be distributed to some 6,500 pharmacies across the country, according to the White House.
Musselman said the county has already distributed vaccines to pharmacies, but many are set to receive more doses directly from the state or federal government.
“We don’t even know what that number is,” she said. “They are opening up appointments accordingly. We intend to work as closely as we can with the pharmacies.”
Currently, Coconino County schedules vaccine appointments for its Ft. Tuthill site on its webpage, but pharmacies and other health partners have their own registration sites.
Musselman said North Country Health Care has over 8,000 people registered for vaccines on their website.
The organization is currently scheduling 40 appointments each day, with an additional 300 on Saturdays. They hope to open 810 appointment slots this week.
In addition to the regular distribution methods, North County Health Care also plans to hold a special seniors event in Williams and Flagstaff.
The county has also reached out to Canyonlands Health Care and Encompass Health Services for administering the vaccine to Page, Fredonia and smaller communities nearby.
“We are continuing to do our best at getting outreach in vaccine availability in those areas of the county,” she said.
The distribution process
Coconino County is receiving weekly vaccine allocations from the Arizona Department of Health Services, although the amount varies.
According to Sarah Schildecker, CCHHS division manager, each Wednesday Coconino County health officials, along with its partners, submit a request for vaccines to ADHS. On Thursday, ADHS notifies the county how many doses will be available to them. On Friday, the county distributes the vaccines to the various health partners.
“We have about 24 hours to review our allocation to determine how we are going to distribute amongst our partners and where priority should be given,” Schildecker said.
The vaccine is then shipped the following week from the manufacturer or distributor and arrives Monday or Tuesday at the partner sites.
“The key point is that ADHS does not know what the allocation is going to be until Wednesday of the week,” she said. “Therefore it’s really hard for them to plan into the future.”
Difficulty for seniors
Michele Axlund, CCHHS deputy director of community Services, said the county is aware of the struggles some seniors are having when attempting to secure an appointment.
She said Coconino County has staff that is solely dedicated to helping these residents navigate the system.
“We want to make sure every senior gets to the site that wants to get there,” she said.
In addition to the online registration process at www.coconino.az.gov/2547/Vaccine-Info, seniors can also call the Coconino County COVID-19 Information Line at (928) 679-7300 for assistance.
“We can fill out the information so they don’t have to go to a computer,” Axlund said.
Seniors can leave a message and the staff will return their call. Once registered, the county will email or arrange for a pick-up of the “ticket.”
Axlund said the county has been able to secure appointments for 60 percent of the seniors who have registered.