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Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra speaks during a Zoom press conference earlier this week, discussing vaccine distribution in Hays County. Screenshot from Hays County Zoom Meeting

Hays County vaccine rollout update

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The much-anticipated rollout of the Hays County COVID-19 vaccine is set to begin soon, though County officials caution the pace will be slow at first. The Hays County Local Health Department (HCLHD) is awaiting a shipment of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) designated Hays County as a vaccine hub over the weekend. The HCLHD received an emailed letter late Saturday evening with news of the change; HCLHD was not on the state’s initial hub list.

Over the past several weeks, the health department and the County’s Emergency Operations Office have been preparing to distribute the vaccine based on the DSHS rollout plan. Without having the doses in hand, however, implementation is on hold.

“Once the vaccine shipment arrives, the wheels can begin moving, albeit at a baby-steps pace,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said.

He cautioned that the initial rollout phase is constrained, due to a limited quantity of the vaccine and that demand far exceeds supply at this point in time.

“Our goal is that as more shipments of vaccine doses arrive, we can rollout a more robust implementation plan,” Becerra said. “For now, we are ready to get the first round of people vaccinated.”

Health Department Director Tammy Crumley said the only individuals who should receive a vaccine at this time are those who are eligible based on DSHS rules for the rollout in Phase 1A and 1B. She added that with the expected quantity of only 1,950 doses, Hays County residents will still have to be patient until more vaccine shipments arrive.

“We are grateful to be designated as a vaccine hub,” Crumley said, “and we look forward to more supply becoming available in the coming weeks and months.”

Once Hays County receives the shipment, those who qualify under the Phase 1A and 1B criteria per DSHS will be able to use an online portal to make an appointment. That portal will not be live until the vaccines arrive, which county officials anticipate happening within the next day or so. However, that could change as the situation remains fluid.

“We will only accept appointments and are asking the public to not show up at a location without one,” Emergency Operations Director Mike Jones 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.”

Jones added that for those without any internet access and elderly residents who are not tech savvy, the County will offer a phone reservation system. Those who have internet access either through a computer or smartphone are strongly encouraged to use the online system.

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.

Judge Becerra said he and other County officials will provide updates each Friday at 1 p.m. for the foreseeable future via Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/judgebecerra.

Crumley said individuals can still pre-register to receive the vaccine on the Austin Public Health website, but that APH officials have said pre-registration is not a guarantee of getting a vaccine dose.

DSHS Phase 1A and 1B Criteria:

To learn more about the DSHS eligibility criteria, visit the DSHS website.

More information is available at the following websites:

Austin Public Health Vaccine Pre-registration:

http://austintexas.gov/aph-vaccine-reg

NOTE: Austin Public Health and DSHS are instructing people to go through the pre-registration process and not to show up at a location trying to get a vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guiding Principles:

https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine/COVIDVaccine-AllocationPrinciples.pdf

San Marcos Record

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