(TNS) - A federally funded vaccination site at the Arizona Cardinals’ football stadium that operates around the clock to administer an average of 8,000 daily vaccinations is an example of the community vaccination centers the federal government plans to build in Ohio and other states to accelerate efforts to immunize the nation from the virus that’s killed more than 450,000 people in the United States.
“We’re building new community vaccination centers from the ground up — in stadiums, community centers, parking lots, and mobile units — in states ranging from California, to Ohio, to New York, “ White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a Monday virtual tour of the Arizona facility. “And we’ve expedited financial support to increase capacity at existing community vaccination centers nationwide, with over $2.2 billion in funding across 32 states, tribes, and territories.”
Spokesmen for the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said they could not yet provide details of the federal government’s upcoming Ohio vaccination efforts. Last month, DeWine said he identified 100 Ohio sites where the federal government could open mass clinics under Biden’s plan to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days in office, but he has not publicly released those locations.
DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney says multiple agencies in his administration are working together to develop mass vaccination sites when Ohio is ready to implement that option, but has not finalized any sites at this time.
“Currently, we have identified vaccine providers that would be willing to host mass vaccination sites,” said Tierney. “Ohio currently does not receive enough vaccine to implement a mass vaccination sites in addition to local providers, but we will revisit this as vaccine supply increases. Our understanding of the federal mass vaccination support is that these sites would supply staff and logistical support but would not supply additional vaccine beyond current allocations.”
The National Football League has told Biden it will make all 30 of its stadiums available as vaccination sites, but spokesmen for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati[s Bengals did not respond to requests for comment on whether they will participate.
The Arizona facility that Zients highlighted on Monday is in the parking lot of State Farm Stadium in Glendale. It started giving its first shots on Jan 11. On Jan. 21, the federal government sent 25 Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers to help it run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the federal government is also funding the Arizona National Guard’s onsite presence at zero cost to the state, Zients said. The site was chosen because of its proximity to freeways, its well known location and the fact that the NFL season in Arizona had ended.
Zeints said Arizona was among the first states to seek federal help from from the Biden administration, and it has already deployed almost 300 federal personnel from FEMA and three other federal partners to support the state’s vaccination operations, including over 100 vaccinators from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“At the request of state and local leaders across the country, we’ve made the cost to build these sites fully reimbursable through FEMA,” said Zients. “Just yesterday, FEMA awarded $20 million to the state of Arizona to support the COVID-19 response, including vaccination operations. These funds can help support building new community vaccination centers just like this one.”
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara M. Christ said the site delivers 350 to 400 vaccines per hour, and is responsible for over 18 percent of the vaccines delivered in the state since it started. People can sign up to be vaccinated online or use a call center. After receiving their vaccination in a tent, she said they are asked to stay onsite for 15 to 30 minutes “in the comfort of their own car, which is really important, potentially, as we head into the warmer months here in Arizona, and it allows for our vulnerable residents to stay socially distanced.” During that time, they register for their second dose appointment, and get their vaccine card.
She said the site also offers “plus-one” vaccinations to people who drive vulnerable residents to the vaccination site, and is not restricting vaccinations to Arizona residents since the state gets “a very large influx” of winter visitors and migrant agricultural workers every year. She said federal aid to the site gave it “a huge logistical lift.”
“The main goal of this site was to really accelerate getting vaccine into the arms of Arizonans,” said Crist. “This has accelerated our efforts here in Arizona. And we weren’t sure what a 24/7 site would look like. We weren’t sure that we would have the demand that we — that we needed. However, our sites and appointments book up very quickly, and our flow through the night is just the same as it is during the day.”
Biden said he hopes to be able to considerably exceed his commitment to get 100 million shots in people’s arms by his first 100 days in office, now that vaccine makers have “upped significantly the commitments to the amount of vaccine they’ll produce and when it’ll be produced.
“Things are beginning to click,” Biden continued. “People are beginning to feel that they can find their way to get the vaccine.”
Harris called the Arizona program a model of the sort of partnership that the federal government could develop with state and local vaccination authorities.
“There are folks around the country who are going to benefit from the work you all are doing on the ground in Arizona — people who may not know your name, people you may not meet, but are going to be forever benefited because of your around-the-clock, hard work,” said Harris. “You are taking this on as a personal mission on behalf of folks who need your help, and you are there to do what’s necessary. So thank you. “
“When we stand united, there’s not a damn thing we’ve been unable to do,” Biden added. “And you’re the — you’re a perfect example of that. So thanks again. Stay safe. Stay safe. And thank you.”
On Tuesday, Zients announced that the federal government will also make a million coronavirus vaccine doses available to community health centers around the country, as a way to ensure that vaccines are reaching underserved communities.
“In this initial phase, we will include at least one community health center in each state and territory,” COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith told reporters, without releasing their locations. “As the program further scales, vaccines will become available to all 1,400 community health centers across states and territories should they want to participate.”
Zients also announced the Biden administration will begin supplying 11 million doses of vaccine to states, native American tribes, and territories starting this week, a 28 percent increase since he took office on Jan. 20.
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