Dr. Francisco Garcia

Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia doesn't see Johnson & Johnson vaccine providing an immediate relief to short supply.

The Pima County Health Department expects to hit 250,000 vaccines distributed by the week's end despite reductions and weather delays, but potential third vaccine not likely to boost tight supply.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Pima County gave 233,835 vaccines so far, marking a 100.2 percent utilization rate.

On Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said the county utilized more than 100 percent because vaccinators get more than the official number of doses out of each shipment.

The state reported 168,350 people, 16.1 percent of the population, have received the vaccine. Although Garcia said the number is likely higher.

The state also reported 66,935 people as fully vaccinated with both doses.

"I'm really proud of the fact that in Pima County, 56 percent, almost 60 percent, of people who are being vaccinated are in that 60-plus age group," Garcia said. "And it's about 50 percent in that 65-plus age group. And that's really important. That means we're putting vaccines in the correct arms. That means this will really have an impact on our hospital bed utilization, our hospital ICUs and ultimately on COVID-related deaths."

Current numbers

The county continues to see a drop in the number of positive coronavirus cases. On Friday, AZDHS reported 114 positive cases compared to 986 on Jan. 19.

Garcia said the county is also moving closer to a 100 cases per 100,000 people rolling average. Garcia said it's a critical marker to hit but doesn't change the need for continued mitigation efforts while in public settings.

"What exactly changes? Do people go back to doing exactly what they were doing before? No. Not at all," he said.

He said even bringing the county's numbers to 100 or fewer cases per 100,000 people is still a lot of infections for the community, making mitigation guidelines still necessary.

"Those things with us, for better or worse, are here to stay," Garcia said.

He said the public should think of COVID-19 mitigation efforts like airport security guidelines that followed the Sept. 11 attacks in New York.

"The pandemic is profoundly changing the way we think about public spaces," he said. "That we think about risk exposures. That we think about employee wellness kinds of policies. These are profoundly affected."

Johnson & Johnson

There's good news and bad news for those waiting on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get approval.

A Tuesday statement from Johnson & Johnson to Congress stated the company would deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June. The company reported the single-dose vaccine showed a 72 percent effectiveness in the U.S. – 66 percent overall – at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 at 28 days after vaccination.

Garcia said Johnson & Johnson's vaccine has a lot of potential, but the limited supply leaves vaccinators in the same situation of demand outweighing supply.

"I'm the person who's been jonesing for the Johnson & Johnson because a single-dose solution will make everybody's life easier," he said. "It makes it easier for the patient from a logistical standpoint and scheduling standpoint. It simplifies it by orders of magnitudes."

Garcia added that a single-dose shot would also be useful to have on hand when essential worker vaccinations begin.

But he said despite Johnson & Johnson potentially getting approval by the end of the month, the amount of vaccine the County Health Department expects the nation to receive is "relatively modest."

"As in a couple of million doses," he said. "What will end up being sent to the states will also be very modest."

He said some speculation estimates the state would receive 200,000 doses, which wouldn't leave Pima County with a substantial amount.

"So, we remain very hopeful, but the vaccine supply, to be completely crystal clear, is still pretty tied up and is still pretty compromised," Garcia said.

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732