Board meeting

Pima County plans to vaccinate about 3,000 homebound-residents with Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine but doesn’t have a timeline yet.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told supervisors that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia informed him about the J&J vaccines before the Tuesday meeting began.

The vaccine received an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA Saturday. The company expects to deliver more than 20 million doses to the federal government by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June.

Despite Huckelberry's statement to the board, a Pima County Health Department spokesman said they hadn't heard yet how much it would receive or how often.

An Arizona Department of Health Services spokeswoman said the state expects to receive an initial allotment of 50,000 to 60,000 J&J doses early this month.

The state plans to distribute the J&J vaccines to the counties based on population, similar to its Moderna allocations. She said any allocations of J&J beyond that would depend on county health departments since counties are the local allocators for vaccines.

Three vaccines

The J&J has a couple of significant benefits over Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Both Moderna and Pfizer have a double-dose shot distribution several weeks apart to meet full effectiveness. J&J uses a single dose.

The state has given 1.9 million COVID-19 vaccinations as of Tuesday, with 1.2 million people vaccinated – 617,250 with both doses. The state reported Pima County gave 274,992 vaccinations so far, with 183,012 people vaccinated – 97,963 fully. There are about 1 million people in Pima County.

It's not just the single dose that gives J&J an advantage over Moderna and Pfizer. The J&J vaccine also has much lower cold storage requirements.

The J&J vaccine can be stored at minus-4 degrees for two years, or three months at 36 to 46. Moderna requires storage at -13 to 5 degrees. Pfizer requires a much colder -70 for storage.

The drawback is that J&J reported a 72 percent efficacy in U.S. trials after 28 days and 64 percent efficacy in South Africa after the same period. Moderna is 94 percent effective, Pfizer is 95 percent.

Vaccine plan

Huckelberry said the county's current allocation is higher than it was in the last three weeks and achieved a "milestone" in applying 7,000 vaccines through the five regional centers Friday. He added that the county held three mobile clinics with 1,700 doses on Friday and Saturday.

Huckelberry said the mobile clinics target disadvantaged or at-risk communities.

"Those are the same processes we will continue to use and continue to use week after week as we move into these communities to ensure that there's equal access to vaccination and vaccines," he said.

The county is also allocating vaccines to the Green Valley area for a second-dose vaccination site on March 8-11. The second doses are for people who received their first dose on Feb. 3-5 at Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital or Community Performance & Art Center.

The Green Valley Fire District is leading the effort in partnership with Premier Medical Group – the county's contractor – and local volunteers. GVFD and the Green Valley Council already started notifying the 3,000 people directly by email and phone for their second-dose appointments.

Testing issues

While the county remains ahead of schedule in its vaccination plan, it hit a snag when it comes to testing.

On Feb. 19, the state announced it would allocate $14.36 million to Pima County for testing as part of an initial $100 million allocation of federal funds to Arizona counties. The $100 million is part of almost $419 million in federal COVID-19 funding the state received. The state allocated the $100 million by distributing a $100,000 base amount to each county and then added more based on population.

As of Tuesday, Huckelberry said the state had not delivered the $14.36 million. He said the county hadn't received $7.1 million from the state for vaccinations either.

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732