The national demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is so high, that the Graham County Health Department wants seniors 65 and older to know they may have to wait until March to be vaccinated.

Graham County Health Department Director Brian Douglas said that the number of vaccines each county receives from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the Arizona Department of Health Services is based on a population formula, but all county health departments were recently notified by the state that their vaccine allocations may be reduced.

“This reduction is due to national demand for the vaccine outpacing the production,” Douglas said in a news release Thursday. “Graham County has successfully distributed vaccine to our residents as quickly as we have received it. “

Because of the reduction, Graham County won’t be able to follow the Health and Human Services’ recommendation that seniors 65 and older get the vaccine immediately, Douglas said.

“Due to the size of the populations in our 1B subgroups the amount of vaccine needed is far greater than we are receiving,” he said. “At this time, we will continue our efforts to work with our community partners by vaccinating the 75 and older population, educators, first responders, and healthcare workers. We will incorporate the newly added 65 and older population, but progress will be slow for this group due to limited allocations of vaccine and the large number of residents in the 1B group.”

Douglas asked for everyone to be patient.

“We are being advised that vaccine production will increase soon. Our goal is to provide every resident the opportunity for COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as can be made available,” he said.

The number of people being diagnosed with COVID-19 and dying from the virus has slowed somewhat in the last week, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

In the time frame from Jan. 7 through Jan. 14, nearly 66,000 Arizonans caught the virus and 1,411 died while battling it. This week, just over 58,000 people caught it and 1,099 Arizonans died.

The news on the hospital front is looking better, too.

According to the state health department, there were more than 4,900 people in the hospital on Jan. 13 and 1,167 were in ICU. As of Wednesday, 4,580 were in the hospital and 1,058 were in ICU.

The numbers are looking somewhat better in Graham County, despite the fact 228 people were added to the list Thursday, most of them prison inmates.

According to the Graham County Health Department, more than 600 people caught the virus Jan. 7-Jan. 14. From Jan. 15 through Jan. 21, 486 people contracted the virus.

Graham County is now up to 60 COVID-19-related deaths. The health department announced the loss of a Thatcher and a Safford senior citizen Thursday.

The COVID-19 numbers remain relatively consistent in Greenlee County, with 30 people catching it both weeks.

Thursday, Jan. 21 marked the one year anniversary since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control began tracking COVID-19 cases. In that time frame, more than 24 million Americans have caught the virus and 400,306 have died while battling it. Over the last seven days, 153,106 have caught the illness and 21,052 have died.

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