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Pima County works to get 250K+ vaccines ASAP

Supes to hold emergency meeting after state rejects FEMA's offer
Vaccination Center at Kino Sports Complex
Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 19:29:15-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A plea from Pima County to the White House now has an answer.

We reported last week that the state rejected FEMA's offer to bring more vaccine doses to Pima County -- at least 250,000 doses.

Pima County Board Supervisor Matt Heinz now wants to know if there's any way the county can bypass the governor in getting the vaccines.

"This should be like open arms," he said. "Hey, you'll want to go down to Pima County, that's great. We have some areas that could really use some help."

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the state facilitated a meeting between FEMA and Pima County. The feds worked with health leaders -- pinpointing two permanent federally run sites -- in high-risk minority areas.

"That brings 6,000 additional vaccines per day, every day, for six weeks," Heinz said.

But Health Director Dr. Cara Christ told us Friday, the state rejected FEMA's offer.

"So at this time the state has declined getting a FEMA, federal-operated site in the state, yes," she said.

That final decision stunned Huckleberry and Heinz.

"We're a little lost at trying to understand what's going on," Huckelberry said.

"The state is not acting in good faith here and I don't know why," Heinz said.

In a news briefing, Dr. Christ explained she had heard of issues surrounding other federally operated sites in Arizona.

"We have been doing a great job at our sites," she said. "They still needed us to be able to staff it, to provide the resources for it, only we did not have the medical oversight or the managerial oversight of these sites."

Huckelberry says they already have what they need to open a federally operated site.

"We don't really need their resources, we have all the resources available here," he said. "We set up our own PODs and our own vaccination centers. So we're perfectly willing to take the entire burden on ourselves."

So Pima County reached out to the Office of the White House.

"To ensure this is a local request and requires no state resources," Huckelberry said.

And the White House responded. Heinz says there will be additional high-level conversations about the federal vaccination PODs at FEMA and then between the White House and the governor.

Heinz says the Board of Supervisors is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday to, in part, address the state rejection of FEMA's offer. The board will consider a resolution to invite FEMA to work with Pima County to make it happen as soon as possible.