PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -  Gov. Doug Ducey announced Monday a new "hybrid" approach to COVID-19 vaccinations, which will allow Arizonans 55 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The new approach launched Monday in the Phoenix area, and state officials say that those 55 and older could start making their appointments at noon on Tuesday, March 2. As of 2:15 p.m. on March 2, all 50,000 appointments were booked.

Many people in the expanded age group were left without an appointment this time around, but not for lack of trying. Michael Wehner tried for more than an hour to no avail.

“To manage to find those little dots, click every single one perfectly, and then get down to the bottom, scroll on over and do this as fast as you can, it’s just not working," he said.

In Arizona, 90% of deaths from COVID-19 have been people 55 and older. And around 65% percent of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 fall in that age group.

Arizona will continue its age-based approach to administering the vaccine. But Gov. Doug Ducey and state health officials say the new strategy will ensure the distribution of doses to people at high risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, like hospitalization and death, due to age.

It will also continue allowing local health departments to prioritize frontline essential workers through employer-based vaccination strategies.

“This critical update provides more clarity for Arizonans and will result in rapid administration of vaccine to our most vulnerable populations,” said Gov. Ducey. “Continuing to vaccinate older Arizonans against COVID-19 will help protect those at risk and cover a majority of Arizonans with chronic medical conditions. And, this hybrid approach will ensure an equitable distribution of vaccine to our front line workers who are working with the public every day.”

Wehner is worried the nine pages of clicking, and the constant need to retry your luck when one appointment slot inevitably doesn't work out, will prevent people with disabilities from getting an appointment at all.

“Now, I’m not the world’s fastest on the computer – I’ve got a little bit of arthritis problems – but if somebody was really disabled, I don’t think they’d have a chance in the world of managing to get through to this," he said.

The Arizona Center for Disability Law shares those concerns. The pandemic has been especially trying for those with disabilities.

"Since last year we’ve seen an uptick in calls and emails and people reaching out through our website and our intake form," said outreach manager Natalie Luna Rose.

She says many of those people can’t physically get to the vaccination sites, or can’t sign up for an appointment to begin with. She’s urging the state not to forget those with disabilities, who -- unless they meet one of the other priority requirements -- still are not eligible to sign up.

"This community tends to get overlooked, in general, and we really want to make sure that they’re a priority when it comes to getting the vaccine," she said.

“As more vaccine reaches Arizona, we will continue refining our plan to maximize the benefits of this still-limited resource,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ. “Moving to a hybrid approach will allow us to rapidly and efficiently administer the vaccine and provide all Arizonans with a clearer estimate of when they will be eligible to be vaccinated.”

More than 1.8 million doses of vaccine have been administered to more than 1.2 million Arizonans, including nearly 600,000 who have received both doses.

-MAKING AN APPOINTMENT

ADHS will open approximately 50,000 vaccination appointments at State Farm Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium at noon on Tuesday, March 2, to those 55 and older for appointments starting March 4. As of 2:15 p.m. on March 2, all 50,000 appointments were booked.

Arizonans 55 and older will also be eligible to schedule appointments at pharmacies and federally qualified health centers participating in the federal vaccination programs.

Information on the phase each county is currently vaccinating, the number of doses ordered by each county, and location of vaccination sites can be found HERE.

Those in groups prioritized for vaccination can register for appointments at State Farm Stadium, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and multiple other vaccination sites at podvaccine.azdhs.gov/.

Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found online HERE. Those without computer access or need extra help registering can call 1-844-542-8201.

You can also use the patient portal to make an appointment for a relative in a prioritized group, such as someone 55 and older.

 

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