Arizona DHS requesting more vaccine from federal government; Pima county looks to state for better distribution

Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 10:41 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and President Joe Biden announced the need to ramp up COVID vaccine distribution on Tuesday.

Biden announced he plans an increase of 1.4 million doses a week.

Locally, Governor Ducey issued an advisory requiring healthcare providers to report their pace of vaccination. That way the state can re-allocate vaccine doses to where they’re needed.

With increased doses, more hands are needed to help. But some areas across the state are struggling in other areas as well.

On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced they are supporting state and local government partners by identifying and filling resource gaps, providing federal funding to accelerate state vaccination efforts and establishing vaccine sites.

At the request of Arizona, FEMA deployed 66 disaster personnel to assist with vaccination efforts at state and locally managed vaccination distribution sites in Glendale, Kingman, Prescott Valley and Tucson.

“The demand is exceeding supply right now, so sometimes having a few extra hands that are well organized and willing to take on a variety of tasks can make a difference,” said FEMA Spokesperson David Passey.

Seventeen disaster personnel are assinged to Tucson, and will help at the points of distribution.

“Either help with back office functions like data processing, paperwork, and other support or on the front line. Not as vaccinators, but greeting those who come into the center, helping with flow, and traffic management, making sure that Tucson area residents know what to expect,” said Passey.

President Biden announced Tuesday his promise to distribute millions of doses to the states.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said it was informed about the possibility of a 16% increase in vaccine allocations. It’s awaiting more details, but said Arizona requested considerably more vaccine than this to expand at state run sites and counties.

Here locally, Pima county is still looking to the state for more help.

“We need to have more vaccine on the ground here, if we’re going to make more progress,” said Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Franciso Garcia.

Garcia cited the vaccination rate posted by AZDHS that shows the two state-run pods have administered nearly the same amount in two weeks, as the county has in six weeks. The county wants the doses to be spread out and said the news of more federal help is great, but talk is cheap.

“I gotta tell you, I don’t count on vaccine until it’s in the hand of our vaccinators,” said Dr. Garcia. “So to me, it’s all theoretical until the vaccine gets to our partners.”

And if more doses don’t come, there’s a fear that the county would have to draw back on first dose appointments, to ensure those who need their second dose complete their vaccination.

The federal help from FEMA is contracted for 60 days but can be extended if the need continues.

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