Guest Opinion: How I Got My First Vaccine: The Heroes of El Rio Health

As millions of Americans nationwide sat on their computers and telephones for days unable to score one precious .5 ml dose of COVID-19 vaccine, in Pima County, frustration grew and soared.

Then, near the end of February, Tucson’s local El Rio Health organization worked out a community plan with the Arizona Department of Health Services, which allotted them a supply of the Moderna vaccine. El Rio started offering vaccinations to their patients, and the supply chain started to move.

El Rio Health is deeply rooted in the Tucson community. It is a human organization, and its humanity is reflected in all it does. El Rio Health started in 1970 as a community health partnership between Tucson’s westside neighborhood groups and the University of Arizona College of Medicine. It has grown over the past 50 years into a well-equipped, well-staffed, well-integrated network of healthcare centers that serves more than 113,000 patients in Pima County. El Rio already had built a working appointment registration system that they’d been using to match patients with appointment times for years.