More vaccines for older Mesa residents on the way The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

More vaccines for older Mesa residents on the way

February 14th, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
More vaccines for older Mesa residents on the way
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By Tom Scanlon
Tribune Managing Editor

Monday afternoon, Frederick Pierce was not a happy camper.

At 78, the Mesa man was eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Theoretically, at least.

“I’ve been trying for two months to get an appointment,” he growled.

“I tried online, I tried the telephone, I tried everything,” he said, frustrated over hours spent futilely.

Adding gasoline to his fire was hearing that part-time residents in his Sunland Village neighborhood were already getting second shots.

“All these snow birds are getting an appointment,” he said.

Then, when he logged into the same state vaccination reservation website where he spent hours only to see the message “no appointments available,” as if by magic he saw multiple slots open at Chandler Gilbert Community College.

He signed up for a shot the next day.

“It went well. I was surprised how organized they were,” he said. “It moves pretty quick. Then you wait 15 minutes after the shot to make sure there’s no reaction. It was a fast moving thing.”

But he was still upset about snowbirds getting shots: “There must’ve been 10 or 15 cars in front of me with out-of-state plates.”

When he got home, Pierce received an email notification and scheduled a second appointment for Feb. 27.

While the 75-and-older group are being given highest priority, those 65 to 74 can also get vaccinated.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced last week Arizona has administered a million vaccine doses.

But it hasn’t been easy for many.

Pierce’s friend Martin Felan, 73, was not able to land a spot at the Chandler Gilbert Community College. Felan’s son helped him navigate the system and found an opening at the State Farm Stadium vaccination site –  but by the time they clicked on the next page of the registration system, the appointment was gone.

With nearly half of those 75 and older having at least one vaccine shot, Maricopa County will begin making vaccines available to adults 65 and older Monday, Feb. 15. The county is boosting the number of pharmacies offering vaccines to 182. 

Meanwhile, state and county officials gave the Mesa Fire Department the green light to continue providing vaccinations to the 75-and-older crowd at the Mesa Convention Center.

Mesa Fire Deputy Chief Michelle Denton said the department opened a point of distribution – better known as “POD” – for a limited group.

“We had a closed POD to vaccinate police officers and private school and public school staff,” she said.

Last week, Mesa Fire started drive-through vaccinations at the Mesa Convention Center “specifically targeting 75 and older.

“We hear, ‘Whew! Thank God!’ from school teachers and (seniors) 75 and up. Seniors have been quarantining in their homes for a year,” Denton said.

The Mesa Fire Department will be providing first and second doses for at least the next few weeks at the same location.

Denton stressed the appointments are booked through the state website, podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

(The registration is a multi-step process requiring an email address. Those who have difficulty or don’t have access to a computer can call 602-542-1000, 844-542-8201 or 211). Information also is available at maricopa.gov/5659/COVID-19-vaccine-locations.

Denton can sympathize with Pierce and others who have had trouble getting vaccine appointments.

“I think it’ll improve as the vaccine shortage gets better,” she said. “We’ve wasted next to zero.”

Mesa Fire’s supply of vaccines has been a week-to-week guessing game. “It’s unfortunate that we can’t put vaccines in everyone’s arm that calls and emails us, we have to take direction from the county,” Denton said.

While her department is ready, willing and able to ramp up if and when more vaccines are supplied, for now Mesa Fire is doing its best to give out shots, receiving smiles and sighs of relief in return.

“We get lots of kudos,” Denton said.

“Everyone is very thankful … We had a lady stop by who had her shot and said she had an excellent experience. She came back an hour later with 10 pizzas.”

Now that most in the Mesa police and fire departments are getting access to COVID-19 vaccines, “Maybe we can get back to normal sooner,” Denton pondered.

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