News Article: Gila County's COVID-19 efforts lead more urban counties

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News Article: Gila County's COVID-19 efforts lead more urban counties

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"By Christopher Brito, March 5, 2021,

While a majority of states and cities are still vaccinating higher priority groups of people, one county in Arizona is now allowing any resident over the age of 18 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gila County, which is located east of Phoenix, entered Phase 2 of their vaccine prioritization late last month, opening up eligibility to the general population.

Part of the the decision to open vaccine eligibility is because Gila County has one of the lowest percentages of COVID-19 vaccine doses used in Arizona. Michael O'Driscoll, director of Public Health and Emergency Management for the county, told CBS affiliate KPHO-TV that they received permission from the state last week to offer the vaccine in a drive-thru clinic last weekend.

"Prior to that, we were struggling to find enough people to make appointments to that, so the state gave me permission to offer it to any resident 18 and older," he said.

About 56,000 people reside in the county. According to the Arizona's Department of Health Services, more than 13,000 people – or almost one fourth of residents – have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We did a survey before to get a sense of how many people in Gila County would consider getting the vaccine, and our survey came back about 50-60% of the residents would choose to get the vaccine if available," O'Driscoll said.

Based on the data, over 5,600 people under the age of 65 have received the vaccine, including 73 people under the age of 20.

One of the younger recipients, 18-year-old Jacob Jost, told KPHO-TV that he was "excited" to get the shot.

"I have a little nephew, a little baby, so having the vaccine puts a peace of mind for that," Jost said.

First published on March 5, 2021 / 12:13 PM

© 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for CBS News, focusing on sports and stories that involve issues of race and culture.

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