Phoenix expands COVID-19 testing, vaccines

Phoenix expands COVID-19 testing, vaccines

Tuesday, July 06, 2021   |   Category: Media Coverage


It’s getting harder to reach people who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine or don’t know where to get a free test.

The city of Phoenix is committed to fixing that.

The Phoenix City Council approved on July 1 additional funding and agreements with local community health providers and labs to provide more vaccination and testing opportunities in underserved ZIP codes with more hesitancy and even more risk of COVID-19 exposure. The funding comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and will not exceed $2.5 million.

The Equality Health Foundation has been partnered with the city since the start of the pandemic and is one organization that will benefit from this additional funding and an extended contract.

This effort goes hand in hand with Equality Health’s mission to break down medical barriers for all Phoenicians, according to foundation President Tomás León.

“When we saw what was happening with this pandemic and communities of color, we knew that it was going to disproportionately impact populations that were already experiencing disparities in health and access to resources to support them,” he said. “That’s what was happening when we looked at the testing, there were not enough testing sites and opportunities in underserved communities of color. A couple of months ago we started addressing disparities in access to COVID-19 vaccines that we felt were emerging in terms of neighborhoods that have been overexposed and low vaccine participation.”

While León said he’s seen a marked improvement since the city and community health organizations got involved, the road ahead will be tough. Vaccine hesitancy and government mistrust is high in many communities of color, and those who want the vaccine have likely already had it.

“This is where the really hard work begins to try to reach the 30% to 40% of the people that still need accurate, trusted information from influencers who they trust, continue to educate them on why it’s important to get a vaccine, and to provide them with information on the facts, the risks and the benefits,” he said.

While the vaccine is widely available to those who want it, the city and its roster of health providers say testing continues to be integral to eradicating the coronavirus.

“Prevention, vaccines — that’s how we’re gonna get to communitywide immunity,” said León. “So testing becomes even more important now. While we’re trying to get everyone that wants a vaccine to get the vaccine, we need to continue to gauge the spread of the virus. That Delta variant is going to put a lot of these communities that are under-vaccinated at risk.”

Sonora Quest Laboratories, one of the city’s testing partners, echoed his statements and applauded a commitment to testing as case numbers remain high. Sonora Quest has performed nearly 3 million tests in Arizona as of July 1.

“As variants continue to grow and an estimated two-thirds of people infected show no symptoms, testing is more important than ever,” according to Christina Noble, Sonora Quest’s chief growth officer. “Case numbers remain high, and providers still need to identify individuals who have contracted the virus so they can receive proper treatment and care.”

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