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Mobile Health Units Bring COVID-19 Vaccine to Rural Arizona

A new Mobile Health Unit initiative delivers vaccines to rural Arizona communities and populations that are not able to access the current vaccine distribution centers. The CDC just announced that Arizona is number one in the nation for the percentage of the rural residents who have received the vaccine!

Since February, the Mobile Health Units (MHU) program from the Zuckerman College of Public Health has implemented a campaign to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to rural and hard-to-reach communities in Arizona. The MHU vaccination drive has delivered more than 12,000 shots in coordination with Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and is now reaching rural Arizona counties through the MOVE UP (Mobile Outreach Vaccination and Education for Underserved Populations) program.

Most Arizona counties offer the vaccine through fixed-site COVID-19 vaccine Points of Distribution (PODs) in urban areas. Ongoing outreach with more targeted community efforts like MOVE UP will be increasingly important for getting more people vaccinated.  Cecilia Rosales, MD, MS, leads the MOVE UP initiative and she’s amazed by the dedication of her MHU team, including staff and students from across UArizona Health Sciences, to reach underserved populations. Dr. Rosales serves as associate dean of Phoenix programs as well as community outreach and engagement at the UArizona Zuckerman College of Public Health. She collaborates closely with Dr. Dan Derksen, MD, UArizona Health Sciences associate vice president for health equity, outreach and interprofessional activities, and director of the UArizona Center for Rural Health at the Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Arizona Number 1 in the Nation for Rural Vaccination Rates!

The CDC recently announced that Arizona is doing better than every other state in the effort to vaccinate rural residents. The CDC report shows 59% of Arizona residents 18 and older, in Navajo, Apache, Gila, Santa Cruz, Graham, La Paz and Greenlee counties had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of April 10. The national average for rural areas was 39%.

“MOVE UP’s overarching goal is to reach people in communities who won’t go to the big vaccine PODs because they have transportation issues, they have language issues, they have technology issues,” Dr. Rosales said, adding that the program started in Maricopa County and has expanded from there. “Most people when they think of Maricopa County, they think of Phoenix and this dense urban area – but it also has many rural areas. There are many small farming communities where we’ve hosted a number of mobile vaccine clinics.”

The Center for Rural Health under the leadership of Dr. Derksen has also played a major role to support rural Arizona counties in their vaccine distribution efforts. Going forward, the ability to deliver mobile, targeted vaccine events to specific communities will be crucial for delivering more vaccinations and increasing the number of Arizonans 12 years and older who have been vaccinated. The MOVE UP program is designed to provide this agile, community targeted approach that brings the vaccine to the people who need it.

Douglas, Arizona Vaccination Event, MOVE UP Program

75 vaccines administered: 98.7% Hispanic/Latino  •  93.3% Spanish-Speaking

Nogales, Arizona Vaccination Event, MOVE UP Program

198 vaccines administered: 98.0% Hispanic/Latino  •  All Spanish-Speaking

The University of Arizona red triangle graphic