Pima County and mayors ask Governor to reconsider rejection of 250K+ vaccines

FEMA concerned about Dr. Cara Christ's public statements
Posted at 11:35 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 00:00:51-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "We are so damn close to the finish line," said Pima County Deputy County Adminstrator Dr. Francisco Garcia.

Pima County continues it's push to get more than a quarter million vaccines into the region.

KGUN9 reported last week that the state rejected FEMA's offer to bring more than a quarter million vaccines into Pima County starting as early as March 31st.

Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told KGUN on Friday that he had been hearing the state may pass on FEMA's offer.

Less than an hour later during an ADHS press briefing, KGUN got an answer from Health Director Dr. Cara Christ.

Cavazos: "For confirmation, you're saying it will not happen in Pima County."
Dr. Christ: "So at this time the state has declined getting a FEMA federal operated site in the state, yes."

Board Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz sent a letter last week to the White House asking if the feds could work with them directly. Then on Monday, Huckelberry wrote a letter to Governor Ducey to reconsider his decision.

The letter to be sent to Governor Ducey is also signed by the mayors of Tucson, South Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, and Sahuarita.

"It's happens very rarely," said Huckelberry, "So I think all the mayors and chair of the board all agree that having more vaccines in Pima County is a good thing."

Dr. Heinz," I think that backing up Pima County and fighting for this makes our position stronger."

The state has given a number of reasons it can't help run a federal pod, but Pima County has said it doesn't have to because the county will foot the bill.

Dr. Garcia said they're close to getting most of Pima County vaccinated -- at least 70 percent to reach herd immunity.

He said it's critical to get more vaccines to disadvantaged and minority populations.

Out of 411,000 total vaccinations so far, Dr. Garcia said Latinos in Pima County account for just under 16 percent -- though still outpacing the state by a significant amount.

"We know where the bulk of that population lives, we know where they work. I would allow us to really achieve a tremendous amount of vaccine coverage in a relatively short period of time," said Dr. Garcia.

The county pinpoints two ideal locations where Hispanics are comfortable visiting and can access easier -- the Kino event center, where COVID testing is done, and the El Pueblo Center.

"In terms of our community is the fact we rely on each other for assistance. And the fact that your neighbor is able to walk down the street to El Pueblo to get vaccinated will mean that a lot of other people will walk down the street to El Pueblo," said Dr. Garcia.

KGUN obtained a letter written by FEMA Acting Regional Administrator Tammy Littrell. It was sent to State Health Director Dr. Cara Christ a day after the media briefing.

It states "Pima County was an excellent candidate to reach underrepresented populations hit hard by COVID."

Littrell wrote to Dr. Christ that she's "concerned about our conversations earlier this week did not include the reservations you outlined yesterday with the press."

Dr. Christ expressed issues over FEMA's vaccine supply integrity, oversight and partnership, customer experience and long delays. Littrell disputes those claims.

She wrote "the Community Vaccination Center (CVC) would be closely coordinated with state and local health officials and come up with an 8-week vaccine supply, clinical and administrative staff, and 100 percent federal funding."

Littrell added that FEMA Acting Administrator Bob Fenton has also made himself available to the Govenror to discuss FEMA's offer of assistance.

"We respect the state's decision to turn down the offer of an additional, federally supported vaccination center and reiterate our desire to support to the maximum extent possible the elements of the national vaccination strategy that are functioning in Arizona," she wrote.

The Pima County board is set to take up this issue at an emergency meeting on Wednesday, March 23rd.