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Efforts to vaccinate residents of Greenlee County have been progressing well with rapid distribution of weekly allotments of vaccines into the arms of individuals anxious to receive the live-saving vaccine.

“Even with the delay of vaccine shipments caused by the recent snow storms paralyzing much of the county,“ stated Steve Rutherford, Director of the Greenlee County Health Department, “we were successful at administering the double shipment which finally arrived this past week, bringing our total shots delivered to 85 percent of all doses received to date.”

At the completion of vaccine drives at both Gila Health Resources and the Clifton Health Department on Friday, Feb. 26, 5,151 shots of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine out of 6,000 doses received had been administered with 1,927 individuals completing both of the two shot recommended vaccinations.

Yet in spite of this interim success, there have been 10 deaths among Greenlee County residents, all occurring among persons older than 60 years of age.

“These deaths are tragic and our hearts go out to the families experiencing the tremendous grief and sorrow caused by these deaths,” said Matt Bolinger, epidemiologist and deputy director of the health department.

“The elderly and persons who have underlying medical conditions are at much higher risk of serious complications, hospitalization, and even death. We want to redouble our efforts to vaccinate these vulnerable individuals as well as the people to whom they are exposed in order to prevent more deaths,” he added.

A highly effective collaboration among Greenlee County partners is engaged in planning and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gila Health Resources, local governments, Greenlee County Health Department, area school districts, Freeport-McMoRan, and other area employees have participated, and the cooperation has allowed a responsive and rapid outreach of vaccination efforts.

Production of the currently available vaccines has steadily increased, and along with the recent approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, a continued, dependable supply of vaccines received in the County is anticipated.

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Greenlee County is now opening registration and vaccinations to all Greenlee residents and non-residents employed in essential occupations in Greenlee County.

Please register at www.gilahealth.com/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine. Individuals without internet access may call the Clifton Health Department (928) 865-2601, the Duncan Health Department (928) 359-2866, or Gila Health Resources (928) 865-7512 for assistance in registration and scheduling vaccinations.

People who have registered will be scheduled as rapidly as vaccine is received.

Please reach out to elderly and other vulnerable individuals to assist them in registration. Any persons assisting and transporting these at-risk individuals are eligible to be vaccinated at the same time.

Over 500,000 U.S. deaths have occurred in just one year, more than the 400,000 service men and women who died during the four years of World War II.

The COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective at preventing serious illness and death. Widespread vaccination is necessary to bring this devasting pandemic under control.

Please get vaccinated…. protect yourself and those you love.

Dr. Fred Fox is the Greenlee County Health Department medical director.

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