One year ago today, Governor Ducey announced that Arizona had received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
With safe, free, and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines readily available these days at retail pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and community clinics, it seems long, long ago when the vaccine supply was extremely limited and the first doses were reserved for frontline healthcare workers.
On Dec. 16, 2020, our former director, Dr. Cara Christ, held an event at which nurses, doctors, and paramedics received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Arizona. You can see the video here. Each of the participants shared why he or she was getting vaccinated, including Regina Villa, a Valleywise Health nurse manager who was the first.
“I’m getting the vaccine to help put a stop to this virus,” Villa said. “I’m getting the vaccine to protect myself and my family, my co-workers at Valleywise Health, my patients, and to help us get back to living lives hugging each other and loving each other.”
In the months that followed, millions of Arizonans rolled up their sleeves at locations including state-run vaccination sites that administered 1.6 million doses. Today, 64% of Arizonans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 4 million have been fully vaccinated. Of those eligible for vaccination in Arizona, 67.8% have received at least one dose.
Today, everyone ages 5 and older is now eligible for a lifesaving jab. And those 16 and older who are fully vaccinated are now encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to ensure that their protection is up to date.
COVID-19 vaccines continue to prove their value. We recently reported that in October people who weren’t vaccinated were 15.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated.
Even with the progress during the past year and success of the vaccines, hard work remains to persuade one out of three eligible Arizonans that it is in their best interest and the best interest of their families, friends, and communities to get vaccinated. While vaccinations have picked up since the summer surge began, our hospitals are straining to care for COVID-19 patients, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
Perhaps one way to move forward is remembering the excitement of that day one year ago when the first vaccines in Arizona gave us all hope of finally bringing COVID-19 to heel. Life has improved in many ways because of the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines, and it can continue improving if we are all in this together.