Photo by Jake Hines Dr. Melissa Zukowski, an Emergency Department Medical Director at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The vaccines are among the first to be distributed by Banner Health in Pima County.
Photo by Jake Hines

Arizona passed the one-year anniversary of its first COVID-19 case last month, and has seen more than 800,000 cases and 15,000 deaths from the virus since. 

But the arrival of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in December signaled a new phase in the state’s fight against the virus.

As of Monday, more than 1 million Arizonans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, but many more are still waiting for their turn.

The Copper Courier has answers to some of the pressing questions you have about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Arizona.

When will vaccine appointments open to all essential workers?

Arizona is distributing the vaccine in a phased process, and the vaccine is available to different groups in different parts of the state.

The state is currently in the prioritized Phase 1B for most of the state, which includes groups like healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, childcare workers, and people over the age of 65. 

Also included in Phase 1B are other essential workers who have continued to work in-person since March, despite increased community spread of the virus. This includes food and grocery store workers, United States Postal Service employees, and transit employees. 

Some rural counties, like Gila and Coconino counties, have moved into the next phase of 1B and 1C, which includes all essential workers.

Last week, Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s director of public health, said the vaccine should be open to essential workers by the end of February or beginning of March, but added that the state would be discussing the transition with its Vaccine and Antiviral Prioritization Advisory Committee this week.

What about the rest of us?

All but one of Arizona’s 15 counties are currently vaccinating people 65 and older.

Arizona residents looking to identify what phase their county is currently in and whether or not they are vaccinating individuals 65 and older can find more information at www.azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

Following these initial phases, the vaccine availability will open to adults of any age who have high-risk medical conditions that put them at greater risk of developing complications if exposed to the virus.

The state expects these high-risk populations to be vaccinated by spring or summer, with the vaccines for the general population expected to be available by this summer.

How do I find a vaccination site near me?

There are more than 200 locations across the state where Arizonans can make an appointment to be vaccinated. To find a vaccine location near you, visit the state’s interactive map of vaccine locations at www.azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

The map includes information such as currently eligible groups, the type of vaccine offered at each location, registration links, hours of operation and contact information for each site.

While the state originally began scheduling appointments at its own scheduling website, some sites, including Walgreens, Albertsons and Fry’s pharmacies, will have their own independent registration link.

To access appointments at sites that are not listed on the state’s scheduling website, visit www.azhealth.gov/findvaccine, click on the site you are interested in making an appointment for and click the “Check Website For Availability” link in the information panel to be taken to the provider’s website.

Each provider will have a different process for booking an appointment, but all of them will ask you to complete questions to screen if you are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

To schedule an appointment at one of Arizona’s four state-run vaccination sites, visit podvaccine.azdhs.gov or call 1-844-542-8201.

Can I get a vaccine if I’m driving someone to their vaccine appointment?

During a virtual tour of the State Farm Stadium vaccination site in Glendale with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month, Christ said the state has offered “plus ones,” or vaccine doses given to people who are accompanying an individual with an appointment.

The decision to give someone without an appointment the vaccine depends on the state’s supply and the capacity at the site at that time, Christ said.

“We really try. We know that people are in constant contact with family members and loved ones,” Christ said. “The more we can do to surround them with vaccinated people, like their caretaker, it just keeps people safer.”

However, the Arizona Department of Health Services later said that vaccination is only guaranteed for those with appointments and that people should not expect to be vaccinated if they are tagging along with someone who does have an appointment.

“Plus-one is a clinical decision based on vaccine availability at the time,” the department said in a tweet. 

How do I get a second appointment if I received my first dose?

Arizonans who receive the COVID-19 vaccine at one Arizona’s four state-run vaccine sites can schedule their second dose appointments on-site after receiving their first dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine take their second dose 21 days after their initial dose, and 28 days after the initial dose for the Moderna vaccine.

However, those recommendations are just a minimum amount of time individuals should wait, and the second dose will still be effective if an individual schedules their second appointment after the recommended timeframe, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Can undocumented immigrants get vaccinated?

In Maricopa County, individuals only have to prove that they are part of the prioritized groups that are eligible for a vaccine. They do not have to show proof of residency when making a vaccine appointment.

“Vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance or citizenship status,” according to the county’s website.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it was committed to ensuring that every individual who needs a vaccine can get one, regardless of immigration status.

The department said in a statement that it was encouraging all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the vaccine once they are eligible.

“It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine,” the statement read.

DHS said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics, and said that ICE has a practice of not carrying out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities.

Are more doses coming?

Last month, Biden promised to boost the weekly supply of vaccines to states upon taking office, saying that states should see a 16% increase in weekly doses of the vaccine upon taking office.

Arizona has not seen that increase in its vaccine allocation so far, and has seen fluctuations in its vaccine supply in the two months since vaccines first arrived in Arizona, according to numbers shared by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The largest increase, a 78% increase in doses, came the week before President Biden was sworn into office, followed by a 24% decrease the following week, with minor fluctuations in vaccine supply since then. 

The federal government has also denied repeated requests from the state for more doses of its weekly vaccine supply.

The state was also expecting to receive 176,600 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines last week, however extreme winter weather across the country delayed the delivery of the vaccines, causing some local health departments to cancel appointments last week.

Christ said the state has gotten a steady supply of vaccines over the last two months and expects that to continue.