Maricopa County Has Expanded Vaccine Eligibility. Here's What You Need to Know

A Mesa firefighter receives a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
A Mesa firefighter receives a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Arizona Department of Health Services
Teachers, cops, and people aged 75 and older are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines as Maricopa County moves into phase 1B of the vaccination plan.

This expanded group builds on top of the ongoing vaccinations for people who qualified in phase 1A, frontline medical personal and people working or living in long-term-care facilities.

Here's what you need to know:

Who's eligible?

The county is now offering vaccination appointments to the following groups:
  • Adults aged 75 and older
  • K-12 school staff and childcare workers
  • Law enforcement and protective services officers, including all sworn officers and government-employed security officers
  • People who were eligible under 1A
Additional essential workers or adults living in congregate settings may be added to phase 1B at a later date.

Update: The state announced on January 13 that Arizonans aged 65 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting Tuesday, January 19.

How do I sign up?

There are several different ways you can get your jab.

Maricopa County is partnering with local health care systems to operate five vaccination sites spread throughout the county. In addition, the state opened a site at State Farm Stadium Monday that will operate 24/7.

You can register for any of those sites through the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) system here. If you need help, step-by-step instructions are available here.

If you don't have reliable internet, the state has set up a call center that will allow you to make an appointment. It can be reached via the 2-1-1 number or the state's COVID-19 hotline at 1-844-542-8201.

If you are over the age of 75, there are also currently five pharmacies where you can get vaccinated — if they have adequate supplies. You can check on that and schedule an appointment here.

The number of pharmacies offering vaccinations is expected to begin expanding later this month as more doses of the vaccine become available, ADHS head Cara Christ told the media Friday.

Depending on your occupation, it might also be worth checking with your employer. The state is planning to offer workplace-specific vaccination clinics for teachers and public safety employees.

When can I expect to get an appointment?

It may take a few weeks.

Christ said that health care workers from phase 1A have currently booked up county vaccination sites through the third week of January.

As of Friday, only 45 percent of eligible people in the 1A group had been vaccinated statewide, but Christ noted that many of the remaining were in long-term-care facilities and will continue to be vaccinated at those facilities through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program.

However, efforts are supposed to pick up. The state-run vaccination site at State Farm Stadium will provide up to 500 doses an hour, Christ said, and the state is looking at establishing similar sites throughout the county.

With that in mind, there's no point waiting to schedule an appointment, unless your employer has an upcoming event. You can schedule an appointment for future weeks as of today, and since the number of people eligible for 1B is around three times as many as were eligible for 1A, it'll pay to get in line early.

How do I verify my eligibility?

The sign-up form will ask you a number of questions to determine if you are eligible. If you are, you will need to bring documentation to your appointment. If you're 75 or older, an ID will work. For eligible employees, a pay stub, work ID, or letter from your employer should work.

Am I safe after I get my dose?

No. The vaccines currently being administered are only partially effective until you receive your second dose in six weeks. As of Sunday, over 80,000 people in Maricopa County had received a first dose, but only 3,837 people have received the full course of the vaccination.

Even after you are fully vaccinated, it will take a few weeks to reach optimal protection and you will still need to continue to take precautions after that. Experts warn that the vaccine does not keep you 100 percent safe from COVID-19; it is not yet known if it will prevent the spreading the disease to others even if you aren't sickened.

It won't be until we reach herd immunity, which could require as much as 90 percent of the population to be immune, that mask-wearing and other physical distancing measures can be relaxed.
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Erasmus Baxter was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times.