PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - After claims that Arizona's vaccination rollout favored the rich, now the state has taken a step to change that.

Hundreds of Arizonans in a high-risk area are now vaccinated, thanks to a new program. This is a game-changer for those who got their first vaccine Monday morning, that otherwise probably would still be waiting.

COVID-19 vaccination

Hundreds of Arizonans in a high-risk area are now vaccinated, thanks to a new program.

For those eligible in Phoenix's lower socioeconomic areas, it's been a challenge to sign up and get to the vaccination sites.

"I feel wonderful! I feel like dancing!" said 74-year-old Terry Reinhardt.

Reinhardt called Arizona's Family from his Verizon flip phone.

He's fairly disconnected — no email, no social media. His life changed Monday morning.

"Well, I'm an old man and I'm just happy to be alive, and I'd like to live another 12-14 years at least," he laughed.

Reinhardt was one of 400 Arizonans part of a new pilot program through the state. The Arizona Department of Health Services has targeted the 85009 zip code in Phoenix, hosting town hall calls and outreach programs to get them signed up for the vaccine.

Then starting Monday through this week, taxi cabs are picking them up to get them to Phoenix Municipal Stadium to get vaccinated. Reinhardt was one of the first.

"These people were so, so extremely helpful," he said. "I'm in a wheelchair and I get around on the bus, and it's pretty hard to connect a bus in that place."

It's been a struggle for those in underserved communities to get vaccinated.

Lydia Guzman has been working on outreach specifically in this area for Chicanos Por La Causa.

"85009 is a large Latino population. We're talking about Maryvale, and in Marvyale, you have a lot of essential workers. You might have folks in the migrant community as well," Guzman said.

"This is obviously a step in the right direction," said Dr. Bob England.

Dr. England is the former Maricopa County public health director and interim health director for Pima County.

He said while this is a great start for this population, the state needs to find a way to scale this effort more efficiently.

"Sounds a little expensive to be sending hundreds of taxi cabs to transport people not where you have the vaccine pods set up. Even more efficient would be the same outreach signing people up, and then getting the vaccine into their neighborhoods where it's easier for people to get to," Dr. England said.

COVID-19 vaccination site

File photo

The state said its plan is to expand this approach to other areas of southwest and east Phoenix, then expand to other areas in the state.

The state also said while providing taxi cabs is the plan for this phase of their effort, it's looking into other transportation options that can get people to the mass vaccination sites.

 

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