300 vaccines, 8 minutes

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State ‘trial run’ shows high demand; HCM awaits word on ‘mass provider’ appeal

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The Texas Department of State Health Services saw slots for 300 vaccine administrations gone in 8 minutes on Tuesday as part of a trial on how to administer mass vaccines throughout Texas.

                A website announced Monday afternoon for 300 vaccination slots was jammed and all slots were taken in under 10 minutes.

                Amanda Stevens, Hill Country Memorial’s chief strategy officer, said the state effort was not related to the hospital’s hopes to become a “mass vaccine provider” in this market. Those plans are moving forward and HCM is awaiting word as to whether it will be designated a provider for the area.

                “We’re still moving forward on this and determining how to gather names to administer vaccinations,” Stevens said Tuesday.

                Meanwhile, the hospital, city and county offices are being flooded with requests for the vaccine, even though mass distribution has been slow to get started around the state.

                Stevens said an Expert Vaccine Allocation Committee (EVAC), a part of the Texas Department of State Health Services, meets weekly to determine where allocations of vaccines go. Every organization or community puts in applications, and the EVAC determines how to prioritize distribution.

HCM’s plan

                A committee has been formed to help HCM fulfill its plan to be a designated mass vaccination provider, according to HCM CEO Jayne Pope. That committee will meet Friday to begin planning its approach and logistics if the community is selected to host the site, she said.

                “The state will determine which locations across the state will have those designated sites and may likely start with much larger cities,” Pope stated in an email. “As of now, there are no additional vaccines allocated to this area (beyond the original 900 which saw 700 go to HCM, 100 to H-E-B and 100 to Cornerstone Clinic).

                Pope said the public would be alerted immediately when new vaccines are promised or if HCM and Fredericksburg is chosen as a vaccination provider site.

                For now, plans are to use the Hill Country University Center to establish a community vaccination site. Pope expressed appreciation to the HCUC board, and said the site offers ample parking, seamless flow and strong data coverage. “Additionally, the center will enable us to offer the vaccine distribution at least five days a week from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. without the need to take down the site daily or even weekly,” she said.

                Guidelines for phasing in of who gets the shot may be found on the Department of State Health Services website at www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine.aspx.

                Healthcare workers, residents at long-term care facilities and persons over age 65 with health conditions are prioritized in the “1A” group.

                Following in the “1B” category are persons, including those dealing with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart conditions, organ transplantation, obesity and severe obesity, pregnancy, Sickle cell disease or Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

                Those in group 1C include most persons considered “essential workers” since the pandemic began.

State testing

                City Manager Kent Myers said the state’s testing on Thursday of 300 doses is a state-run vaccine administration event being used as a “trial run” to gather information on how the vaccination program would work.

                “We’re at a standstill until we hear more about the hospital’s request to be a mass provider,” Myers said. “But the good thing is there has been a lot of response.”

                County Commissioner Donnie Schuch agreed and said the courthouse had fielded many calls about vaccination availability.

                “People are frustrated about the lack of supply, and there is a lot of confusion, but we will just have to wait until the mass vaccinations get going,” Schuch said.

                “Our hope,” Myers added, “is that at least 75-80% of the population will choose to receive the vaccine.” He said that level of vaccination would help develop immunity in the general population.

Testing

                City Manager Kent Myers said this week’s free community coronavirus testing brought out 506 people to be tested, even though weather shortened the planned testing time by two hours.

                He encouraged those who wished to be tested to go the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park this week between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., preferably on Wednesday or Thursday, as those days would likely see shorter waiting lines than on Friday.

VACCINE STATUS: Unknown

CORONAVIRUS TESTING: Pioneer Pavilion at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. through Friday.