FEMA allocates $153 million to PR Health Dept. to strengthen COVID vaccine campaign

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

As part of efforts to stop the coronavirus from spreading in Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated $153 million to the island Health Department to reinforce its drive to distribute and administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

La Fortaleza spokesperson Sheila Angleró said Monday that the funding is for a project that is being formulated based on “estimated costs for eligible work and associated costs that are reasonable and necessary for the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Even though Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said during a press conference after his third cabinet meeting that the funds were for the island to purchase a million coronavirus vaccines, Angleró told the STAR that the money is actually to “make the vaccination efforts stronger.”

“The FEMA funds are not to purchase vaccines,” Angleró said, noting that the vaccines are already being purchased and distributed by the federal government.

Angleró said the governor’s statements were due to a misunderstanding.

According to information provided by Angleró, the eligible costs under the FEMA allocation may include but are not limited to the purchase of personal protective equipment and supplies required for storing, handling, distributing, transporting, and administering the coronavirus vaccine, such as coolers, freezers, temperature monitoring devices, vaccine storage units, and emergency medical supplies.

The funds could also cover vaccine transportation services, onsite infection control measures, medical waste disposal, and communication strategies for disseminating public information regarding vaccinations.

Pierluisi: Island will achieve herd immunity ‘by the end of summer’

The governor said he remains positive about reaching his administration’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the island population against the coronavirus by the end of summer, as President Joe Biden has “made the commitment to procure 100 million additional vaccines.”

The statement referred to the president’s pledge to reach such a number in 100 days.

“Our goal still remains that, by the end of summer, we will have herd immunity that will protect us collectively; but between now and then we cannot let our guard down,” Pierluisi said. “That is why the Puerto Rico Health Department is very active, urging citizens to comply with the executive order, keep using face masks, practice physical distancing among us and prevent crowding.”

When asked by a member of the press about the progress of vaccinations on the island given alleged setbacks in inoculating the elderly population, the governor insisted that Puerto Rico has stood out as “one of the top jurisdictions in regard to how swiftly we have distributed and administered the vaccines.”

“The vaccines that have not been administered are merely because they have not arrived from the federal government,” he added.

As for the next executive order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with the current one expiring on Feb. 7, Pierluisi said his intention is “to keep the order as it is.”

“I am not foreseeing a change in this order during the next few days,” the governor said. “But I will be evaluating all the details of the order and if any additional modification is necessary, I will make it.”

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