COVID-19

The Pima County Health Department began their COVID-19 Test To Treat program at the county’s East Clinic on Thursday, June 23.

The 30-day program, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides testing and access to treatment for COVID-19. 

Individuals who have tested positive from an at-home test, testing site or at the clinic will be evaluated by a health care provider to determine their eligibility for antiviral medication for COVID-19. They will immediately receive a prescription at no cost and health insurance is not required. 

Those who are eligible for treatment are over 12 years old, weigh at least 88 pounds, have mild to moderate symptoms and have a high risk of severe COVID-19 illness. 

The medications that will be available with a prescription are Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Lagevrio. Both medications, when taken within five days of symptoms, are effective against COVID-19. 

The two oral medications are also available at pharmacies within the county and can be prescribed by health care providers. 

“This new program will help ensure that those who don’t have easy access to care, or can’t see their usual health care provider, can get the timely treatment they need after a COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, Pima County Health Department Director in a press release.

The Health Department will look into extending the program based on community needs after about a month.

Other Test to Treat sites are available locally at some pharmacies and federally-supported health care centers. 

The East Clinic is located at 6920 E. Broadway Blvd. Hours of operation for Test to Treat are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about the Pima County Health Department Test to Treat program visit, pima.gov. For more information on where to get tested for COVID-19 in Pima County, go to pima.gov/covid19testing.

Children six months and older now eligible for vaccine

In other recent COVID news, children six months and older are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination series from Pfizer and Moderna, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

This decision comes amid concerns from public health officials that cases are again increasing at a rapid rate. From May to June, reported COVID cases in Pima County more than doubled, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) COVID-19 dashboard.

Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said in a press conference on Monday, June 20, that Pima County is in an “accelerated transmission phase”. She said offering vaccines to children aged between 6 months and 5 years will protect 80 to 90,000 individuals in the community, not to mention all of the individuals nearby.

“One reason we believe this is important is because as you know, in the last year, there were daycares that had to close because there were outbreaks of COVID-19,” Cullen said. “There were schools in kindergarten that had to close because of outbreaks of COVID-19.”

Outbreaks also follow children home and could infect at-risk adults. Dr. Cullen recommends parents follow the vaccination series provided by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

The 6-months-and-older age group will have access to Moderna’s two-shot vaccination series and Pfizer’s three-shot vaccination series. 

Parents can access the new pediatric vaccines outside of Pima County clinics. County officials recommend parents call ahead to their pediatricians or local pharmacies for availability. Cullen also suggested that large pharmacy chains may not be offering vaccines to kids 3 and younger.

Walgreens will vaccinate children ages 3 and older, while CVS increased accessibility for children 18 months and older through MinuteClinics.

“I want to reassure viewers that the reason why it took so long for us to get here was because we wanted to ensure the safety of this vaccine,” Cullen said. “Both the FDA review panel as well as the CDC as well as the data itself indicates that this is a safe vaccine and there have been very few significant side effects with it.”

As the virus continues to mutate, more virulent and dangerous variants could be on the horizon, according to Cullen. Vaccines will protect children from unexpected vicious variants and potentially protect younger children from “long COVID” symptoms, which are still being studied in terms of severity over time.

Tucson Local Media reporter Alexandra Pere contributed to this report.

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