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Editor’s Thought Bubble: No, we can’t ‘vaccinate our way out’ of this

By: - January 25, 2021 9:08 am

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For weeks, the state’s stop public health official, Dr. Cara Christ, had been saying that Arizona couldn’t simply wait for 5 million people (or so) to get vaccinated, and we needed to remain vigilant and practice simple safety measures like staying home, wearing masks and physically distancing. Then Gov. Ducey blew that out of the water on Jan. 14 when he declared that his strategy was to “vaccinate our way out of this,” so there was no need for any more mitigation measures — even as Arizona was the worst in the nation for COVID infections and hospitalizations.

That sentiment was laughable in the moment, but it’s even more obvious now how ridiculous, dangerous and callous it is for the Ducey administration to embark on this strategy. The very next day, it became clear that the Trump administration had been lying to states about having millions of vaccine doses stockpiled. Then came the news last week that in Maricopa County, where about 60% of Arizonans live, there weren’t enough vaccines on hand to provide the needed second dose to potentially thousands of people who had already received the first. Now, we’ve learned that Arizona’s request to the federal government for 300,000 more vaccines was denied, ostensibly because the Trump administration left the cupboard bare and all 50 states are clamoring for more doses.

The state has made great progress in getting vaccines into arms in recent weeks, and it’s no small feat that some 363,000 people have received their first dose. But the task of “vaccinating our way out of this” is Herculean: Only 67,000 people have received both doses so far. And with a shortage of vaccines likely to continue, the Ducey administration’s refusal to do more than beg for more vaccines means more Arizonans will fall ill and die.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.