Rural areas in Texas plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution with limited resources

Tiffany Huertas, Joe Herrera

DEWITT COUNTY, Texas – More than 1 million COVID-19 vaccines are expected to come to Texas, and communities are finalizing details on storage, who will be involved, and where the distribution sites will be placed. While larger counties may have more resources to distribute the vaccine, smaller counties are also working out plans to get it to rural community members.

DeWitt County, which has a population of more than 20,000 people, is seeing the excitement build over the new vaccines.

“Some people are excited about it, and they want to be first in line. Some that I talked to today — others are saying they’re going to wait and see,” said Cyndi Smith, emergency management coordinator for DeWitt County.

H-E-B gearing up to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Smith said five entities have registered to be distribution sites, including the Cuero/DeWitt County Health Department, Cuero Regional Hospital, two nursing facilities and the H-E-B pharmacy in Cuero.

The first doses are expected to go to health care and essential workers in the rural area. Smith said the community really needs it due to the larger aging population.

“We’ve got 65% elderly in our county because we’re sort of a retirement community county, but we’re also big in the oil industry. We’ve got quite a few first responders. We’ve got a hospital,” Smith said.

The county is also considering setting up drive-thru vaccination sites in large areas like parks when there are more vaccines available.

The county would need additional resources to make drive-thru sites a possibility, including nurses who can administer the vaccine. The county health department currently has two.

“We would have to get others that are trained to give the vaccines or to make sure paperwork is filled out properly,” Smith said.

Smith said they’ll be relying on local groups, churches, hospitals and volunteers to ensure the distributions go as smoothly as possible.

“Those types of partnerships are really important. Our volunteer fire departments can come out once they’ve had their vaccination, they can come out and assist also,” Smith said.

Another unknown is the storage of these vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine requires it to be stored in subzero temperatures. Many rural counties don’t have this resource, including Dewitt County.

“Rural areas may not get that. It may be places such as San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston area that would get that because they have facilities such as that in that area,” Smith said.

Smith said people should not contact the vaccine distribution locations that have registered at this time. She said DeWitt County will coordinate with each location and publish when the vaccine will be available to the public and any further information.

Copyright 2020 by KSAT – All rights reserved.


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