By Sahar Chmais
HAYS COUNTY – Texas has designated the Hays County Local Health Department (HCLHD) as a hub to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to residents, but department officials are unsure when they will receive the 1,900 allocated doses.
“I won’t count my chickens until they hatch,” said Judge Ruben Becerra during a press conference on Monday, Jan. 18. “Once we have vaccines in our possession we will shout it from the mountain tops. We will tell the community every way we know how.”
Becerra said that, regardless of whether the county has been designated as a hub for the vaccines or not, nothing will make a difference until the vaccines are given to residents. As soon as the doses are in, the portal for signing up will open.
“Like a Black Friday special,” Becerra said, “we will open the portal and within 48 hours we will have filled every spot.”
Still, 1,900 vaccines in a county with a population of approximately 300,000 residents is a drop in the bucket. The first allotment will go out to residents qualifying under Phases 1A and 1B. The county is working with small amounts and under unknown factors, but are prepared for when the vaccines arrive.
According to Becerra, they have been watching where other surrounding cities are running into issues and trying to learn from them so Hays County operates smoothly. Hays County has many distribution options when the vaccines arrive: it could use clinics, do a drive-thru system and more.
So far, residents under Phase 1A and 1B have been able to receive their vaccines through private medical practices/pharmacies, Austin Public Health and Bexar County, but it is important that the county also gets its allotment.
Becerra explained that this is a similar concept to mass-testing for the virus. When the state was able to mass test through the county, it became more available for everyone. The county has seen a list of private practices receive the vaccines when Hays County had no control over it.
While Becerra said he is grateful that the vaccines are available and taking care of many 1A and 1B criteria patients, the county has no idea the volume and scope of the vaccines provided. During a pandemic, the county should have a stronger level of awareness, overseeing all of its residents and not just small practices and small pockets, Becerra said.
Becerra is hopeful after seeing a surge in residents wanting to get the vaccine.
“I am very thrilled that we are seeing such an interest in vaccinations,” Becerra said during the online meeting. “Because as you know, many communities don’t want a vaccine.”