Michael Pestano

Michael Pestano receives his second vaccine shot from registered nurse Colton Kimbell at the state vaccination site in Westworld in Scottsdale operated by Cigna.

Scottsdale residents are much more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than residents countywide.

Data released last week by county and state public health officials show the percentage of eligible Scottsdale residents who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus exceeds the state and county percentages as well as those of most of its neighbors.

The latest data shows that 70.3 percent of eligible Scottsdale residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Over 60 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The data include both the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as well as the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients are included in both data sets, according to the county.

North and central Scottsdale have the highest rates of vaccination in the city.

In 85262, which includes Scottsdale and Carefree, 85.3 percent of eligible residents have received one dose and 76.4 percent are fully vaccinated. Neighboring 85266 has 83.1 percent receiving one dose and 75.4 percent fully vaccinated. 

The 85255 ZIP code in northeast Scottsdale that is known for swanky private golf communities like Silverleaf and DC Ranch has seen 79.8 percent of residents receive a single dose. 70.1 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

In 85259 east of Loop 101 in north Scottsdale, 78.6 percent of residents have received one dose and 68.5 percent are fully vaccinated.

Farther south, 85258, which covers much of the city between Shea Boulevard and Indian Bend Road, also has around 79 percent of residents with one dose and 69.7 percent fully vaccinated.

Elsewhere in the city, 85250 records 68.3 percent of residents with one dose and 58.5 that are fully vaccinated, and 85254 has 66.5 with one dose and 56.7 who are fully vaccinated.

The 85260 ZIP in the Scottsdale Airpark has 65.9 percent of residents with one dose and 56.4 percent fully vaccinated.

Scottsdale’s stats suggest residents here have been far more open to the vaccine than many Arizonans.

Statewide, 44.3 percent of residents have received one dose and 33 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health Services.

Maricopa County’s fully vaccinated rate is only 30 percent, the latest data show. That percentage puts it behind Yuma, Santa Cruz, Pima, Navajo, La Paz, Graham Gila, Coconino, Cochise and Apache counties. 

Even the Scottsdale ZIP codes with the lowest vaccination rates in the city still exceed those statewide and county numbers.

About 57 percent of residents in 85251 and 85257 have received a single dose and about 46 percent are fully vaccinated.

Scottsdale’s vaccination rate also stands out among its larger neighbors.

In fact, Scottsdale had the fourth highest rate of full vaccination amongst eligible residents in the entire Valley, only trailing Carefree, Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills, small wealthy enclaves that border Scottsdale.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Phoenix has a 39.4 percent fully vaccinated rate and only 49.6 percent of all eligible residents have been inoculated.

Tempe has a fully vaccinated rate of 42.6 percent while 52.3 percent have received one dose.

Mesa’s fully vaccinated rate checks in at 40.5 percent and a one-dose rate of 50.3 percent.

The level of participation varies with age, with 80 percent of county residents over 65 – the age group at greatest risk of severe complications and death from the coronavirus – vaccinated.

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, gave a few possible explanations as to why residents in places like Scottsdale, Carefree and Paradise Valley are more likely to be vaccinated.

He said early on, the way the vaccination system was set up gave an advantage to people who were digitally adept, had access to reliable internet service and had the time to act quickly when new appointments opened up.

“I think it was because of the way the system advantaged wealthier people and those ZIP codes are wealthier areas,” Humble said.

Those circumstances have changed  now that vaccines are more available and some state sites and private pharmacies like Albertsons and Safeway began offering vaccines without an appointment.

Even though vaccines are now easier to access, Humble said more well-to-do communities still have an advantage.

Noting wealthier people “don’t have transportation barriers there,” he said, “It’s just a lot easier for them to get down and then make the appointment, and they have more flexible jobs.”

Scottsdale’s relatively high vaccination rate led Humble to question why the state decided to open up a vaccination pod at Westworld on April 22 rather than marshalling resources in communities with lower vaccination rates that have transportation or employment barriers.

“If you have limited resources and bandwidth and you’re running a public health program, what you should do is focus on the areas that need the help the most,” he said.

Humble noted that he believes that counties across Arizona are doing a better job at directing resources to those underserved communities.

The vaccination rates statewide have been sufficiently concerning to state Health Director Dr. Cara Christ that she recently held a virtual town hall specifically “for those living in areas of Mesa identified for highly targeted outreach on COVID-19 vaccinations.”

Though she took questions only from two Mesa City Council districts, she made it clear she was giving a pep talk “to encourage every Arizonan to be vaccinated.”

Several callers had a similar question: How safe are the vaccines?

“Arizona is now vaccinating all individuals age 16 and over … This vaccine is safe and effective,” she stressed, noting manufacturers were required to show their vaccines are safe.

“With any medication or vaccine, there’s always the possibility of side effects … they’re really common after the second dose,” Christ added.

She referenced a recent national article that showed “not only does the vaccine protect against the strain it was designed against, but it also protects against the variants.”

Asked about “booster” shots for those who have been vaccinated, Christ said timelines are fuzzy, then added, “Some providers are looking at combining a flu shot with a COVID booster.”

Christ said all a person needs now is the two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one shot of Johnson and Johnson, which are “believed to provide six months of coverage.”

At the time she spoke, the minimum age for vaccination was 16, but the state began offering vaccinations to kids aged 12 to 15 last week after that shot received emergency use authorization for that age group from the FDA.

 “We’re hoping before the start of school, more ages will be eligible for vaccines,” Christ said.

“There aren’t a lot of long-term effects with these vaccines … these are safe,” Christ stressed.

“This (vaccine) has been tested on hundreds of millions of people …. The vaccine is really good at protecting against hospitalization and death,” she added.

Meanwhile, after the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday said it was safe for vaccinated people to no longer wear masks, Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega rescinded his mask mandate for people visiting City Hall and city facilities.

But Ortega warned, "we still have to be smart and cautious because COVID is not gone."

His statement is supported by new county data showing that while virus levels are nowhere near what they were when 2021 began, Scottsdale and Arizona generally aren’t out of the woods.

Citywide, Scottsdale is still in a state of “substantial transmission, after it had 54 new cases per 100,000 residents from May 2-8. Three Scottsdale ZIP codes – 85251, 85262 and 85266 – still had over 70 new cases per 100,000 residents in a single week, according to the latest data.