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Arizonans continue to wait for COVID-19 vaccine while state leaders, FEMA spar over new distribution site

A dispute between state leaders and FEMA hasn't helped Arizonans get quicker access to the vaccine.

PHOENIX — As Arizona opened up eligibility to the COVID-19 vaccine to all Arizonans 16 and up at state-run sites on Wednesday morning, available appointments were booked in just a matter of minutes.

This comes as 12 News obtained a letter written to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ which said the state denied a Federal Emergency Management Agency offer to open another vaccination site complete with funding, staffing and more.

State denies FEMA offer for additional vaccination site

Gov. Doug Ducey and Christ echoed that state sites like the ones at the University of Arizona and State Farm Stadium have the infrastructure to add more appointments per hour.

“The 3,000 doses administered here each day could be doubled with more vaccine,” Christ said of the site at UArizona.

FEMA Acting Regional Administrator Tammy Littrell argued in a letter that the state denied a federally-backed vaccination site that would have included an eight-week supply of the vaccine, staffing and all federal funding.

RELATED: FEMA 'concerned' with Dr. Cara Christ’s mischaracterization of offer for federally supported COVID-19 vaccine site

Ducey said the state asked for more supply but not for another site.

“What the federal government tells us they’re capable of distributing from this potential federal site are 6,000 doses what we are capable at the state level is 60,000 doses,” Ducey said. “We’re good at the distribution, get us the supply.”

Christ: FEMA site would still require state-run operations

While talking about the reason the state denied the offer from FEMA, Christ said the site would still have state and county obligations, like scheduling appointments.

“We already have a lot of that infrastructure in place, where all we would need to do is add a couple of hundred appointments to each hour and we would be able to significantly increase the capacity if we just got the vaccine,” Christ said.

Christ echoed the governor saying the vaccine doses from FEMA are what the state needs.

“There were many concerns about why they felt they couldn’t just give us the vaccine, but they needed to set up an entire site outside are already state distribution,” Christ said.

Pima County Board of Supervisors asks Ducey to reconsider

The Pima County Board of Supervisors in Tucson voted unanimously Wednesday on a resolution asking Ducey to reconsider denying FEMA’s offer.

“We’re going to stay focused on distributing the vaccine,” Ducey said. “I’m going to revisit this issue because the board of supervisors feels so strongly about it. But the objective remains putting shots in arms.”

If Ducey doesn’t allow FEMA to step in, Pima County said the resolution allows them to ask the Department of Homeland Security to direct FEMA to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccine

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