Gila County is getting more than $200,000 from the state to purchase two freezers capable of holding the COVID-19 vaccines that require dramatically low temperatures — down to 70 degrees below 0.
The infusion of additional money required the Gila County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 1 to approve an amendment to the existing intergovernmental agreement it has with Arizona Department of Health Services.
Michael O’Driscoll, director of Gila County’s Health and Emergency Management Department, told the supervisors one of the specialty freezers is already in place and a second is to be delivered shortly. O’Driscoll said the freezers can also be used for other vaccines that need to be kept cold as the units’ temperature can be adjusted.
James Menlove, county manager, told the BOS he spoke to Patricia Power of Bose Public Affairs, the county’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Monday, and she said the freezers O’Driscoll’s office has purchased are on a long backorder now. “So, I want to commend Michael and his staff for their forward thinking on this,” Menlove said.
O’Driscoll added that since Gila County will be one of the few counties to have the freezers, it is possible it would serve as a distribution point for surrounding health departments.
Woody Cline, District 3 supervisor and chairman of the BOS, asked O’Driscoll how much vaccine Gila County can expect.
“I don’t know how much vaccine we’ll get. It depends on what is approved and how much can be produced,” O’Driscoll said.
Menlove told the board Power said the vaccine is to be distributed based on population — California will get a lot. When Arizona gets its allocation remains to be seen and when it does, it is up to the governor to determine what areas get it first. So, while the county is ready for vaccines, it could be awhile before any come into the special freezers waiting for it.
The money will also go toward:
• Provide supplemental flu activities to increase the flu vaccination rates for adults, especially high-risk adults, within the county. These efforts are intended to help keep hospitalization rates for flu down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Increase capacity for data entry and reminder recall activities, to include but not limited to additional staffing, or purchase of hardware and software equipment to accomplish this task. These efforts are intended to help track immunization data during the COVID-19 pandemic.