Vaccination clinic

Gloria Neira of Florence receives her Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination April 2 at a drive-through clinic at Sun City Anthem Union Center. It was one of 1,685 COVID vaccines given in Pinal County that day. In all, more than 176,000 vaccine doses have been given in Pinal County, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

FLORENCE — A $3.3 million grant to “improve vaccine equity” in communities at increased risk of COVID-19, which the Pinal County Board of Supervisors rejected a month ago, will come back for a closer look.

“There’s been a considerable amount of discussion and concern about this item,” Supervisor Jeff McClure, R-Eagle Crest Ranch, said at Wednesday’s board meeting. He asked for the grant to come back to the board in October, with a more in-depth explanation and briefing by the county attorney and the appropriate public health officials, “to clear the air regarding the terms and conditions” of the grant, and whether it could still be approved.

The board, sitting as the Pinal Public Health Services District board, rejected the Arizona Department of Health Services grant 3-2 on Sept. 1. Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, made the motion to disapprove it, and McClure and Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, voted with him.

Tascha Spears, Pinal public health director, told the board Sept. 1 this new funding would help the county provide vaccines, noting people are already asking to book appointments for booster shots.

But Cavanaugh said it appears the vast majority of the grant would go to an as-yet-unnamed contractor, whose goals and purposes are unknown, except for “vaccine equity.” He also questioned the need for it, with at least 50 places in the county where a person can be vaccinated.

In “call to the public” as the meeting began, an Oracle man emailed the board to urge those who previously voted “no” on the vaccine grant not to change their votes. He said the grant would fund “an unelected COVID czar” in Pinal County to push the federal government’s dictates.

A Casa Grande man in attendance Wednesday disagreed, “you never turn down money unless there’s a good reason to do so.” He continued that Cavanaugh’s rejection of it appears to be based more on ideology than public health.

Carol Lee Bailey of Saddlebrooke Ranch also opposed the grant. “Don’t bring it back. Don’t dress it up and put lipstick on it, it’s still a pig.”

Another woman said it doesn’t appear the county has done its “due diligence” to establish the need for the vaccination grant. “If there is a need, I’ll volunteer,” she said.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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