UArizona to Serve as COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Site

three large freezers

The University of Arizona in December established a "freezer farm" capable of storing more than 1 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Soon, the university will serve as a point of distribution for vaccinating people in Phase 1B of Pima County's vaccine plan.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona will serve as a point of distribution for COVID-19 vaccinations in Pima County beginning Jan. 22.

According to the Pima County Health Department, the university will aid with vaccinations for priority populations in Phase 1B of the county's vaccine plan, which includes people 75 and older; education and child care providers at the K-12 and higher education levels; and those working in protective service occupations, including law enforcement, corrections, firefighters and other emergency response staff.

Additional information about who is eligible in Phase 1B is available on the Pima County Health Department website. 

The university has created a Vaccination Task Force that is working on logistics for vaccine distribution in partnership with the county and experts who have helped coordinate COVID-19 testing on campus. Details will be announced as they become available.

"I want to thank the Pima County Health Department and the entire county administration for trusting us with this important partnership role," UArizona President Robert C. Robbins said Monday during his weekly virtual update on the university's COVID-19 plans.

The university's spring semester starts on Wednesday. The campus will operate in stage one of its reentry plan, with only essential courses such as research labs and performing arts classes held in person. Most courses will be offered in an online format. Additional in-person instruction may be permitted later in the semester if public health conditions allow for it.

A spring testing blitz for students has been underway since Jan. 6, with students moving into dorms required to first test negative for the virus. Isolation housing is available for those who get a positive result. Since Jan. 6, the university has administered 6,184 tests with 108 positive results, for a positivity rate of 1.7%. Testing numbers are updated regularly on the university's COVID-19 website.

As part of the university's Test, Trace, Treat strategy, students who live on campus or attend classes in person will be required this semester to be tested weekly for COVID-19. In addition, students returning to campus this semester from areas outside Pima County must quarantine for seven days, only leaving their homes for essential activities, Robbins said. Meanwhile, Pima County's 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect for all county residents.   

Robbins also reminded students and university employees – who have been encouraged to work from home – that they are required to enroll in the university's Wildcat WellCheck program. The health screening service sends daily health questions via text or email to those who work, live or attend classes on campus.

Robbins said the Campus Area Response Team – a partnership between the University of Arizona Police Department and Tucson Police Department – will start up again on Thursday. The CART team was formed to crack down on large gatherings in the campus area.

While local COVID-19 hospitalization rates have stabilized a bit in the last couple of days, Arizona continues to have one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, with a 52% increase in cases over the past 14 days, said 17th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, a Distinguished Professor in the university's Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health who joined Robbins at the weekly briefing.

With numbers high and data lagging, Robbins stressed that caution remains essential.

"We have seen an improvement in the number of hospitalizations and other indications for the local health system. This is a good sign, but we also need to remember that some of the impacts of travel and gatherings over the holiday season have yet to appear, and we may see infections (and) hospitalizations rise again," he said. "I hope we don't, but we need to remain vigilant."


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