Rural Arizona county opens COVID-19 vaccinations to general public

Any resident older than 18 can receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Gila County, Ariz., one of the first places in the U.S. to offer vaccinations to the general public, reports The New York Times.

"The whole process is incredibly easy," said Frank Struck, 24, an electrician and maintenance worker who got vaccinated. "No bureaucracy, no crazy lines — you just go in, get the shot and come out with peace of mind."

Gila County started off with eligibility standards, but was able to open up vaccinations for all adult residents after swiftly meeting targets for vaccinating high-risk groups like seniors and essential workers. State officials allotted the county more doses after these targets were met.

Gila County has hospitals in both its main towns, Payson and Globe, where residents can be vaccinated, while some rural counties in Arizona have no hospital at all. The expanded vaccine rollout has coincided over the last two weeks with a 52 percent drop in new COVID-19 cases, reports the NYT. About 28 percent of Gila County residents have received at least one dose thus far, compared to a national rate of 14 percent, according to the NYT.  

Health officials warn that challenges persist, with many residents skeptical about the vaccine, and many resisting mask-wearing and social distancing measures. For instance, Globe, Ariz.-based Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center had expected a surge in calls after opening vaccinations to all adults, but instead found the flow of people somewhat steady.  

"It's a little slow going, if we're looking at getting to 70 percent for herd immunity," said Rhonda Mason, RN, chief nursing officer at Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center. 

More articles on public health:
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: March 2
Global cases rise for 1st time in 6 weeks; Merck to produce J&J vaccine, officials say — 5 COVID-19 updates
States ranked by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered


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