Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra speaks during a Zoom press conference, discussing vaccine distribution in Hays County. Screenshot from Hays County Zoom Meeting
Hays County Designated COVID-19 Vaccine Hub
Hays County has now been designated as a COVID-19 vaccine hub per the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Hays County Local Health Department (HCLHD) received an emailed letter late Saturday evening with news of the change; HCLHD was not on the state’s initial hub list.
“We are pleased that the state health department recently identified Hays County as a vaccine hub in its distribution plan,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said in a press conference Monday. “Our implementation plans are in place and now we enthusiastically await receiving vaccine doses. We will soon share information with our residents about how they can register.”
The hub vaccine distribution method is intended to distribute the vaccine in a more centralized and efficient manner, while supply remains low.
The health department and the County’s Emergency Operations Office are gearing up to distribute the vaccine based on the DSHS phased rollout plan. They anticipate a shipment of about 1,900 doses this week.
Becerra isn’t getting ahead of himself, however, stating during Monday's press conference that they don’t actually know how many vaccines will arrive and the county is just as in the dark as residents after being designated a hub. “That doesn’t mean anything until I get vaccines,” he said. “You can label Hays County a hub and send us fewer than 2,000 vaccines … or you don't have to label us a hub and send us 10,000 vaccines and watch us get to work. So, the hub designation doesn't move me.”
He says they are ready and practiced to receive and distribute any amount of vaccines; that they could operate out of a clinic with a small amount of doses or out of a performing arts center or a high school parking lot for mass vaccination.
“It will take no time for us to get those vaccines in our communities arms,” Becerra said.
Emergency Operations Director Mike Jones was also confident in the ability of their team.
“We will follow this program just as it was meant to be and that is to be the focal point for everybody touching our county, we will take care of every resident that comes inside this county, we will get them a vaccine, just be patient with us as we start small and grow large,” he said in Monday’s press conference.
Vaccines are currently available to only those eligible in the 1A and 1B groups.
Hays County Local Health Department Director Tammy Crumley is asking for the public’s continued patience.
“Right now, the vaccine supply is limited and HCLDH must follow the state’s established protocols,” Crumley said in a press release issued Monday. “As the supply becomes more available from manufacturers, hubs such as HCLHD will be prepared to help get a vaccine to everyone who wants it but that will take time.”
She noted it may take weeks to receive more substantial quantities of the vaccine and begin vaccinating the larger population.
“We see and understand the frustration and know that many Hays County residents are eager to be vaccinated,” Crumley said. “That is a very positive sign, yet we must proceed cautiously and in an organized, thoughtful manner.”
Mike Jones said a COVID vaccine registration portal will soon be available on the County’s emergency notification website, haysinformed.com.
“Our office is implementing a vaccine registration system so that once we have the doses available, we will begin scheduling appointments,” he said. “We have a tight window of opportunity to distribute the vaccine once a vial is opened and we’re asking for the public’s help in ensuring we strictly follow the protocols in place.”
County officials remind the public to continue practicing COVID-19 safety precautions including regular hand washing and wearing masks. Health experts also recommend avoiding gatherings with people who are not in your household.
According to DSHS, Phase 1B of vaccination will focus on people for whom there is strong and consistent evidence that COVID-19 makes them more likely to become very sick or die. Preventing the disease among people who have these risk factors will dramatically reduce the number of Texans who die from the disease and relieve pressure on the healthcare system by reducing hospital and ICU admissions. Vaccination will also reduce absenteeism among the front-line workers at the greatest risk of severe disease and protect individuals at risk for health inequities.
As stated in the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Phase 1B Definition, Phase 1B provides vaccines to individuals age 65 or older; higher-risk people regardless of their work sector or status; critical populations at an increased risk of getting COVID-19; communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and other chronic diseases; teachers and school staff who ensure that Texas children can learn in a safe environment; social services workers who ensure that those in need receive care and support; workers who maintain critical infrastructure to support the Texas economy; and other front-line workers who are unable to work remotely and so are more likely to be exposed.
Those who may be eligible for a vaccine under the DSHS 1B list also include those who are 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, including but not limited to: cancer; chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies; solid organ transplantation; obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher); pregnancy; sickle cell disease; and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
This story has been updated since its first publication.