Oakland officials plead with FEMA to keep vaccination site open at Coliseum

The Federal Emergency Management Agency close its massive Oakland and Los Angeles COVID-19 vaccination sites just days before v accination eligibility expands.

"This is an emergency across the country and certainly when it comes to being left out in East Oakland, Oakland is always at the end of the emergency," said Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo.

The Oakland Coliseum was one of two sites to be chosen for FEMA's eight-week mission to vaccinate. But, now FEMA wants to hand the reins to Alameda County. The site is set to close on April 11. 

Community leaders say they are happy to do so if they are provided more resources.  

"We need to put more vaccines in people’s arms and keeping the Coliseum open, especially as we open, is invaluable," says Alameda County Board Supervisor Wilma Chan. 

SEE ALSO: Vaccines for all in California sounds too good to be true, some health officers say

Chan chairs the health committee and says in its time at the Coliseum, FEMA  was able to administer 42,000 shots per week while the county administers between 15,000 to 17,000 doses a week. 

The county asked FEMA for a four-week extension or extra vaccines through a transition. They were told no.

"They indicated that their mission is complete that this was their eight-week mission that they had intended," Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla said on a phone call Sunday evening

Chawla has been a part of negotiations with the federal government and says the county is not giving up yet.

"We’re still trying," she said. "Supply will be increasing, it just won’t be increasing as quickly as we’d hope and unfortunately our region will be standing down just at a time when we need it."

In a statement, FEMA said: "FEMA has delivered all the promised vaccines to the state of California, plus some additional doses of Pfizer...On Sunday, Apr. 11, the eight-week CVC mission will be completed. But that does not mean vaccinations will end. Cal OES is working with local health officials on a transition plan to transfer management of the CVCs to local organizations."

Former FEMA presidential appointee, Mark Neveau, says the decision included input from the White House, local FEMA leaders, and the CDC.

"They know that there’s enough vaccines throughout the country by pharmacies and medical plants that they feel they can turn this over to those parties," Neveau said. 

When disaster strikes, FEMA typically comes in for response and recovery.

"In this particular case they’re closing up because they feel like they can continue to get service to those through the agencies," Neveau said. 

Neveau told KTVU that Gov. Gavin Newsom handed over the vaccine contract to Kaiser/Blueshield and at this point, FEMA believes that this will be adequate enough to serve the needs of California, possibly the country. 

But community leaders, like Gallo, are concerned doses won't' come before April 15, when vaccine eligibility expands to Californians 16 years of age or older.

"It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do," said Gallo. And the federal government, from the president down, they can talk a lot, make a lot of noise, and feel sorry for the poor and disadvantaged but it’s what you deliver."