Arizona's COVID-19 vaccination rates are too low to eliminate threat
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 6,119 COVID-19 cases in its weekly update Wednesday. That’s an increase from last week’s report, but still an improvement from the summer peak. While the state's outbreak shows signs of receding, some experts say Arizona’s COVID-19 vaccination rates are still too low.
“Although we’re in a better spot than we were a year ago, we’re still not out of harm’s way if we don’t all pull together and get vaccinated,” Dr. Ayrn O’Connor, director of the medical toxicology fellowship at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix, told KJZZ News.
O'Connor said her biggest concern is that dozens of Arizonans are still dying from the virus every week. This week, the state reported 82 COVID-19 deaths.
"Now that we have safe and effective vaccines, nearly all of these deaths could be preventable," O'Connor said.
Vaccination rates in Arizona continue to lag behind national averages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 63% of Arizonans have received the initial vaccine series, compared to nearly 68% of people nationwide.
But most Arizonans have not received booster doses of the vaccines, which O'Connor said are critical to slowing the disease's spread.
"The goal needs to be everybody vaccinated and boosted," O'Connor said. “If we don’t stop the spread of infection, we basically can have mutation. When we have mutation, we have new variants that can develop, and then we could have an increased threat.”
Maricopa County Public Health reports just 18% of county residents were up-to-date with booster vaccines as of early September. Since then, the CDC has updated its booster guidance to recommend everyone over the age of 12 receive new versions of the boosters that target omicron variants of the virus.
The state health department reports demand for shots has increased slightly since the new booster doses became available. About 50,000 updated boosters have been administered statewide so far.