Shots up, COVID down in Navajo County |

After a missed week, Navajo County is back on track to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 18% of residents have already received at least one shot.

“We are spot on,” said Janelle Linn, director of health for Navajo County, at the board meeting on Tuesday.

The storm in the east blocked vaccine shipments last week, but that means the county will have a bigger supply than normal this week.

“In Arizona, 19% of the population received at least one shot, about one percentage point above the average. We didn’t see much growth in vaccine coverage last week – so we expect a sharp spike this week. I am pleased that we are above the national average in pushing vaccines out, ”said Linn.

Earlier this week the county had administered 18,199 shots – including about 5,000 people who received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, which offers 95% protection against developing the disease.

Fortunately, the number of new cases has fallen after records were set in January. The increase likely reflected the mixing of family and group events during the holidays.

Nationwide, the number of new cases has fallen by 40% and the number of deaths by 28% in the last two weeks.

Still, the Apache and Navajo counties were at either a “very high” or an “exceptionally high” risk of infection this week. Navajo County’s infection rate of 26 per 100,000 remains well above the national average of 23 per 100,000.

Arizona has gained a lot of ground after a slow vaccine rollout, especially in rural areas. National tracking databases said Wednesday that 15.2% of Navajo County’s residents received a first dose and 5.4% received a second dose – a total of 21% with at least partial protection. That’s in the top 20% of states at the national level.

Neighboring New Mexico does better – 30% had at least one shot. Alaska is doing the best – 33% got a shot. Arizona, however, does better than California, where only 17% got a shot earlier this week.

Navajo County is still only making appointments for people in Phases 1A and 1B, which include healthcare providers, people in direct contact with COVID patients, educators, law enforcement, adults 65 and older, and key workers, including grocery and restaurant workers, belong. You must make an appointment through the county website or by calling 844-542-8201.

On Tuesday, the website announced that all appointments for the first dose were full.

However, neighboring Gila County is now planning dates for the general public as most of the people have been reached in 1A and 1B.

The regulators praised the vaccination campaign.

“I am so grateful that you have continued to serve our communities,” said Supervisor Dawnafe Whitesinger.

Chief Executive Officer Daryl Seymore said, “I received two personal calls from vaccinated people – and they said it was the best government experience they have ever had. Just fantastic what’s going on – kudos to everyone there. “

The manufacturers are increasing their production and the latest economic stimulus package from the federal government provides for additional funds amounting to billions for vaccinations. Linn noted that the county is expecting a new infusion of money from this source in the next few weeks.

The current pace of vaccination at national level will not reach herd immunity levels of 80 or 90% until late summer or even early autumn. However, if the vaccination rate continues to improve to the current rate, the nation could achieve significant protection by early summer.

This week the federal government announced that coronavirus vaccines shipped to the states will be increased by 1 million doses a week to 14.5 million. Weekly deliveries have doubled since January 20th. The vaccine distribution system also got a boost this week as it was announced that the Pfizer vaccine will eventually not need to be stored in extremely cold temperatures, which could increase the number of locations to rely on for the vaccine.

Linn said the county will vaccinate an additional 1% or 2% of the population each week after the gunfire resumes.

However, further progress will depend on a number of factors including whether the 25% of Arizona residents who say they do not plan to get vaccinated change their minds. The clinical studies showed that the shot caused only fleeting and mild side effects, with rare one-in-a-million exceptions that included a more severe immune system reaction. However, the widespread misinformation and political polarization has made many people suspicious of getting the vaccine.

The clinical studies have shown that the leading vaccines approved for use in the United States offer approximately 95% protection from the development of the disease. These studies have not shown whether someone who is vaccinated can still carry the virus and pass it on to other people. For this reason, reaching that herd immunity level of 80% or 90% remains critical to resuming a version of normal life. To date, in Navajo County, about 15% of the population has recovered from infection and 18% have been vaccinated – meaning about a third of the population is protected from developing serious symptoms.

So we still have a long way to go before we stop relying on the widespread use of masks and limiting the types of group meetings associated with Super Spreader events.

The other big unknown remains the rapid spread of new strains of viruses that cause COVID 19. These new strains are 30% to 70% easier to spread. Some of these strains can also cause more serious diseases, including some that are already floating around in Arizona. These include two strains that were first identified in California. Preliminary studies suggest that these two new California strains are spreading more easily and making current vaccines less effective. These strains can, on average, double the viral load in the infected strains.

The emergency of the new spots remains a great unknown as the US does not currently have a robust system for genetic analysis of random samples to track the spread of the new variants. Researchers say the rise of the new strains only underscores the importance of achieving “herd immunity” as soon as possible through widespread vaccination.

Vaccine manufacturers say they are already working on booster shots that would provide additional protection against the new strains.

Still, the rapid decline in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Arizona has brought welcome relief.

In the past two weeks, cases across the country have decreased by 47%, deaths by 34%, and hospital admissions by 44%. Overall, the state has returned to infection rates during the first peak in July – with around 1,700 new cases per day. Nationwide, the infection rate fell to 22 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past week.

This equates to 31 per 100,000 in Navajo County and 18 per 100,000 in Apache County.

Apache County has decreased cases by 33% and hospital admissions by 35%, although the county remains at “very high risk.” In the past two weeks, 9% of the COID tests were positive.

Gila County has also seen sharp declines in new cases, but remains at “extremely high risk”. In the past two weeks, new cases have decreased by 52% and hospital admissions by 47%. About 10% of the tests were positive, indicating a persistent, significant undercounting in the number of cases. (

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

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