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Phoenix marijuana dispensary hosts walk-up COVID-19 vaccination blitz

A local cannabis dispensary offered free COVID-19 vaccinations to members of the community at a pop-up, drive-thru blitz west of downtown Phoenix Wednesday afternoon.

The pop-up drive, hosted by Arizona-based cannabis grower and retailer Nature’s Medicines near McDowell Road and Interstate 17, started around 3:30 p.m. with more than thirty cars already lined up down the block.

As the event began, volunteers directed traffic into the parking lot, where staff stood at three booths offering the first dose of the Moderna vaccine to anyone above the age of 18. The pop-up also accepted walk-ups for those who arrived on foot or by public transit. Staff then asked people to either park their car at the end of the lot or sit under a canopy for about fifteen minutes to monitor for adverse reactions.

Members of the community were encouraged to register for vaccinations beforehand, but Jusmin Patel, Chief Business Officer with Nature’s Medicines, said that they would continue sticking any arms that came through until their supply of about 250 vials ran out.

“This is our way of giving it back to the community — organizing the event and making sure more vaccines get to more people,” said Patel. 

The ZIP code of 85009, where Wednesday’s event was hosted, has a relatively low COVID-19 vaccination rate. About 18% of 85009’s population was vaccinated by Wednesday, according to county data, compared to Maricopa County’s 30.4%.

“Hopefully this ZIP code, if they see this vaccine drive here and it’s closer, they can take advantage of this site. But we’re not limiting it to only this ZIP code or anything — whoever registers for it is welcome to come in,” Patel said.

2 who for months struggled with vaccine registration surprised to stumble upon event

The first to roll up his sleeve for a dose outside Nature’s Medicines dispensary was John Woods, who had been in the area Wednesday when he came upon the blitz.

Woods, 67, had been attempting to receive a vaccination for several months, but technological barriers made it difficult for him to secure an appointment.

“Oh it’s bad, real bad. My physician told me to go online (to sign up for a vaccine), but I didn’t have no computer,” Woods said. 

George Turner was also relieved to have discovered the dispensary’s event. He had similarly tried to sign up for a slot at one of the state-run mass vaccination events, but because of his work schedule hadn’t been able to nail one down.

“I’m 47, and I’ve been trying to get one for the last two months, and it’s been kind of hard,” Turner said. 

Both men agreed that those reticent to get a vaccine should reconsider, especially as doses become available at more local community events like Wednesday’s.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Turner said. 

COVID-19 vaccine:Here’s how and where to get one in Arizona

State says vaccinations will begin to move inside, shift away from mass events to local ones

As of Wednesday, nearly 3,800,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Arizona, according to the state’s data dashboard. A third of the state’s population has received at least one dose.

At the opening of the Valley’s first indoor mass vaccination location in east Mesa on Monday, Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ announced plans to move state-run vaccination operations inside as summer heat approaches.

She also said that as more people become vaccinated and demand for doses decreases, the state will start to shift away from high-volume distribution sites to local establishments and community locations.

According to Patel, the event was sponsored by Nature’s Medicines and not in partnership with the state.

“This is pure community service,” Patel said. “Every dollar, every penny, is paid by Nature’s Medicines to make this successful.”

Wednesday’s blitz is the first of many such pop-ups Nature’s Medicine hopes to host at their flagship dispensary.

“This is awesome, our turnout’s been great, and we want to keep doing this,” said Michael Selvey, national director of retail operations for Nature’s Medicines. 

The dispensary is planning another drive on April 28 to administer the second round of the Moderna vaccine.

Reach the reporter at emily.wilder@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter @vv1lder.

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