Maricopa County Department of Public Health released its plan for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 7. Priority will be given to health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities, according to the county.

“We have been developing detailed, multipronged plans in partnership with local hospital systems, fire departments, law enforcement, emergency management and other agencies across the county to prepare for a quick and efficient distribution of the vaccine as soon as it becomes available,” said Marcy Flanagan, director of Maricopa County Public Health Department.

Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization, but no vaccine has yet been granted either full or emergency use authorization. While there are still many unknown factors that could impact when and how much vaccine will become available, a vaccine could be approved and ready for distribution as early as mid-December, according to county officials.

“By vaccinating these frontline workers first, we are helping to ensure that our health care system will stay strong with needed staffing, and in turn, our family members, friends, colleagues and others in our community will be able to receive the health care they need when they need it most," Flanagan said.

The first dose of the vaccine will be distributed at five regional "points of dispensing" across the county in conjunction with Abrazo Health, Banner Health, Banner Del Web, Dignity Health and Honor Health over a distribution period of several weeks, Flanagan said. The vaccine will require a second dose, which will be administered three to four weeks later.

“We have not received all of the details yet, but our plans by design are flexible, and we will be ready to go when the vaccine arrives,” Flanagan said.

Phase 1 for the county's distribution plan is split into three sections: 1a, 1b and 1c. Following health care workers, including emergency services, and long-term care residents receiving the vaccine, the county plans to distribute the vaccine to adults in congregate settings, such as jails, prisons or medical facilities; law enforcement; teachers; and child care workers, essential services and critical industry workers.

Following that, the county plans to distribute the vaccine to adults older than 65 and adults of any age with high-risk medical conditions. After those groups have been vaccinated, the vaccine will be available to the general population—which the county estimates could happen in the spring or summer of 2021.