When Amanda Gray set up Saturday’s COVID-19 drive-through vaccination clinic at Gila Health Resources, she was hoping to see 400 patients. They saw 430.

As a result, Greenlee County is No. 1 in the state when looking at per capita figures and the percentage of residents who have received at least one COVID-19 shot.

More than 1,300 Greenlee County residents have been innoculated, said Gray, Gila Health Resources’ chief quality officer.

In fact, the county is already allowing residents 18-65 to receive shots if they have underlying health conditions, she said. Residents simply need to register in advance to receive their shots.

In Graham County, it’ll be March before similar patients will receive their shots due to the number of residents overall and the fact Graham County has more health care workers and seniors living in long-term care facilities.

Gray was over the moon with how well the drive-through vaccine clinics went last week. Roughly 200 people were innoculated both Thursday and Friday as well. Gray was responsible for coordinating the clinics and making sure Gila Health Resources could remain open to patients.

Her only regret was that they couldn’t innoculate more people.

“I want to vaccinate every person who wants it. I wish there weren’t all these specific guidelines. I know how it feels, you feel anxiety, you feel anxious, you don’t want to get COVID,” she said.

So many people she works with have lost loved ones to the virus and she is bothered by those who write it off as though it were no big deal.

“People are like ‘Oh, it’s just the flu.’ I have never been in any place where everywhere I turn around there are providers getting it, or their brothers, sisters or their spouses are dying from the flu like this. This is ridiculous. It’s affecting our whole community. It’s obviously not the flu.”

Gray begged people to pay attention to their Facebook feeds.

“When was the last time where you saw in your feed somebody died from the flu?” she asked.

Gray and Greenlee County epidemiologist Matt Bolinger said rumors of inflated numbers simply aren’t true. People who die in car wrecks or cancer are not included in the county’s statistics, they said.

“I know what we do here and we’re very careful about what we call a COVID death. I know that doesn’t happen in Graham or Greenlee counties,” Bolinger said.

Dr. Fred Fox, Greenlee County Health Department medical director, said the county’s successful vaccine launch is due to the effective partnerships between Gila Health Resources, the health department, school districts and Freeport McMoRan.

However, Fox cautioned against relaxing when it comes to the virus. Even after receiving their second shot, people will need to mask up, maintain their distance, avoid large crowds and avoid closed spaces.

“Neither alone will do the trick, but together we can hope that they will start bringing the number of new infections down,” Fox said.

“People don’t recognize that vaccines are not the equivalent of a personal force field around you preventing the virus from getting you,” Fox said. “It’s an internal protection that only works when you are exposed to the virus. If it’s working like it should, you may never know you had it or you may have very mild symptoms, but you can still theoretically pass it on.”

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