Health Workers in Navajo, Apache County Receives Apache County’s COVID Vaccine

Healthcare workers in Navajo County received vaccinations for COVID-19 this week as new cases peaked, hospitals filled up, and numbers began the first hopeful sign of decline.

Navajo County and Apache County Health Departments received their first doses this week of a high-tech vaccine manufactured by Moderna that has been shown to be 95% effective in clinical studies with few side effects.

The frontline health care workers are starting their recordings this week, and the residents and nursing home staff will be the next to start. The Navajo reservation began vaccinating healthcare workers there the week before.

Rescue workers, other healthcare workers, and residents and staff of group homes will come next.

The district’s health authorities will administer the first batches of the vaccine in three phases between now and spring 2021 due to the global dose shortage. The general population is unlikely to have access to the footage until the summer. The US has allocated billions to vaccine development and has reserved enough doses to vaccinate two to four times its total population. So far, however, only the first two of a dozen potential vaccines have been approved for use in the U.S. The population cannot get a vaccine until late spring or summer. The US is negotiating hundreds of millions of additional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the only ones approved for use to date.

Phase II vaccinations include law enforcement officials, firefighters, teachers and school staff, healthcare workers, energy and utility workers, food and agricultural workers, and other critical services. The health department does not yet know when it will receive enough doses for this much larger group.

Next are the adults who are at greatest risk for the virus if they become infected. This includes adults over 65 and people with high-risk diseases such as diabetes. These groups are unlikely to get their shots until spring, although people over 55 account for 88% of deaths from the pandemic. Arizona has put critical workforce, especially key frontline workers, ahead of the high-risk populations.

“Adults over 65 or those at high risk for disease are in Group 1C,” said Bryan Layton, assistant county manager. “We don’t know the exact date for this group yet, but the county will provide updated information as it becomes available. We appreciated the close coordination with the state on the vaccination schedule. This is a very fluid process that is moving quickly, and the county health director Jeff Lee sits on the Arizona Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Antiviral Prioritization (VAPAC). In this position, Mr. Lee has made sure the concerns and needs of the rural counties are heard and he supports the state-approved distribution plan. “

Congressman Tom O’Halleran, who represents the White Mountains and the Navajo, Apache, and Hopi Reservations, urged Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to speed up the vaccine distribution process to get it to every 7 million residents within six months from Arizona.

“As we prepare for an undoubtedly complicated vaccination process, we must ensure that community health centers and other medical facilities – many of which have been severely stressed by this public health crisis – have the support they need to keep them safe and fast Families and seniors in the rural, tribal, and vulnerable communities of Arizona need vaccination, ”O’Halleran said. “This distribution process needs to be transparent and organized so that Arizonans in every corner of our state are informed and can safely receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

Congress this week passed a long-stalled pandemic stimulus measure with an additional $ 70 billion in vaccines and COVID testing. State and county health departments have been complaining for months that they lack the resources to run the largest mass vaccination program in the country’s history.

O’Halleran complained that two previous letters to Ducey had gone unanswered. He urged the state to establish fixed dates for each phase of the vaccination schedule and to work with rural hospitals to ensure they have resources, the ultra-low storage capacity needed for early vaccinations, better coordination with tribal and local governments, and one Establish public education campaign to ensure people know that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Some rural health workers were surprised when the first 58,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine went in full to the Pima and Maricopa counties, even though the rural areas had well-developed vaccination schedules and storage facilities for both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were required.

The first shots come just in time to keep the health system from being flooded with the latest spike in some cases.

Arizona has fallen to 4th from the hardest hit state in the past two weeks. During this period, new cases increased by 4%, deaths increased by 98%, and hospital stays and visits increased by 36%. The state’s cases have exceeded 470,000 and deaths have exceeded 8,100.

In Navajo and Apache counties, the average number of daily cases has decreased slightly over the past week. Navajo County has 82 cases per 100,000, with about 91 new cases diagnosed each day. Apache County has about 73 cases per 100,000, with about 53 new cases every day.

The infection rate in the counties of Navajo and Apache is just a little above the counties in Maricopa and far behind the increasing infection rates in the counties of Mohave, Yuma and Santa Cruz.

Health officials across the area called on residents to wear masks in public, stay home when sick, avoid crowds, and minimize Christmas gatherings where households mix.

Little Colorado Medical Center in Winslow has seen approximately 12 COVID cases per day with approximately 9 COVID patients in the medical-surgical department. Every day the facility has to move about three patients to other hospitals. About 41 people a day show up to get tests, and about 15% of the test subjects are positive.

“It is very important that each of us continue to be vigilant and conscientious about COVID19 safety precautions such as wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing. As we approach Christmas and New Years, please be careful with family gatherings. It’s best to keep family events as small and spacious as possible, preferably outside on a warm part of the day, ”advised the doctors at the medical center.

Summit Healthcare has activated its surge planning to deal with the emergence of COVID-19 patients – empowering staff, opening every possible bed, and taking extra precautions.

“We’re in it together,” advised the medical center staff. “We can’t stress the community enough to wear a mask, wash your hands, keep social distance, and stay home when you’re sick.”

The Navajo County Health Department is currently monitoring 1,146 active COVID-19 cases outside tribal areas. A month ago, the department only had 478 active cases. In October, health workers monitored only 280 cases.

“Please join us to help others around you to stay a little safer,” said the health department.

Both Apache and Navajo counties have strayed far into the “red zone” to significantly spread the virus on the state’s school benchmark website.

For the week leading up to November 29, Navajo County had 711 cases per 100,000 per week. The minimum spread would be less than 10 cases per 100,000. 24% of the tests were positive – compared to a “minimum spread” of 5%. Even the hospital visits were in the red zone – 19% instead of under 5%.

Apache County was in similar shape, with 600 cases per 100,000 per week, 18% positive tests, and 19% hospital visits.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other issues for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach out to him at [email protected]

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