FEMA to help with Yakima mass vaccination site

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is coming to Yakima to increase and improve access to COVID-19 vaccinations in the community.

FEMA — along with state and local partners — will be operating a Pilot Community Vaccination Center at the drive-thru mass vaccination site that opened last week at State Fair Park.

The partners will also host mobile vaccination clinics in rural and agricultural communities, including Selah, Naches, Wapato, Toppenish, Zillah, Sunnyside, Mabton and Grandview.

RELATED: Yakima drive-thru mass vaccination site opens

“Through this partnership, vaccination capacity at this location will expand from approximately 200 vaccines per day to 1,200 vaccines per day between the fixed, drive-thru site and mobile units,” a FEMA news release said. “The additional vaccine doses will be provided directly by the federal government and will not be taken from the state or county’s regular allotments.”

The six-week long pilot program will start March 31 and is a joint effort between FEMA, the Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Emergency Management Division, Yakima Health District and Yakima Valley Emergency Management.

“The local government and all of the partnerships, including FEMA, are working together to make this effort as accessible as possible for residents who need the vaccination,” FEMA spokesperson Jassiel Olivero said.

The state and the Yakima Health District applied for the federally funded program to help rural, underserved community members with a high risk of COVID-19 infection.

“We are so appreciative to FEMA and our other federal partners for working with the state to make significant additional resources available to the people of the Yakima Valley,” Governor Jay Inslee said in the release. “This will be a tremendous boost to our vaccine equity efforts and will also reach out directly to Washingtonians who don’t have the means of transportation to a fixed vaccination site.”

RELATED: More Yakima County residents eligible for vaccine

Health officials said Yakima County has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and has had disproportionately high rates of infection and hospitalization compared to the rest of the state.

Additionally, there are a significant amount of residents who may have difficulty getting access to the vaccine due to rural living, poverty, limited access to transportation or other concerns. According to the release, nearly 20% of Yakima residents live below the poverty line.

“Residents include a significant proportion of essential workers who cannot perform their work from home,” the release said. “People from racial and ethnic minority groups have accounted for approximately 50% of the county’s COVID-19 cases.”

The Pilot Community Vaccination Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday and Friday through Sunday, and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Anyone wanting a vaccination can check their phase eligibility using Phase Finder, then register for an appointment on PrepMod or call 1-800-525-0127.