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County Officials Provide COVID Vaccine Update

During a Facebook Live session on January 15, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, Local Health Department Director Tammy Crumley, Emergency Management Coordinator Alex Villalobos and Emergency Services Director Mike Jones provided residents with a COVID-19 update including vaccine distribution plans.

Judge Becerra told viewers that the County continues to advocate for residents in terms of getting more vaccine doses and access to new facilities and treatments. He was adamant that Hays County is doing all it can to within the existing parameters of the state’s vaccination rollout plan.

“I want everyone who wants the vaccine to get it,” he said.

According to Crumley, HCLHD requested vaccines from Texas Department of State Health Serviced (DSHS) and is waiting to receive the first shipment, which she’s been told is about 300 doses.

“We’re all anxiously awaiting more vaccines to begin distributing them to Hays County residents,” she said.

Crumley said she feels the same frustrations as other county residents but there is a limited supply available during this early rollout phase. Only those in the state-defined Phase 1A and 1B groups are currently eligible so the first doses received in Hays County will be used to vaccinate anyone in the Phase 1B list as defined by DSHS. (Note: more details about the 1B group are at the bottom of this release.)

 “We appreciate your patience as we navigate this new step in the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “I anticipate more doses will arrive in the next several weeks.”

From an emergency operations standpoint, Jones said he along with other Hays County officials have been working with local partners including private companies on a distribution plan but for now, it’s a hurry up and wait situation.

“We have a plan, but we can’t dispense the vaccine until we receive it,” he said.

He added that his department is working on creating a registration portal for the general public, noting that at this time, Hays County residents in the 1B group can pre-register with Austin Public Health or talk with their primary care physician.

“We will have a registration portal on haysinformed.com but it’s not active yet,” he said. “Once it’s up and running, we will share that information with the public.”

Jones also said the county’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers will be assisting with the vaccine plan and encouraged anyone willing to help to become a volunteer.

“You can sign up on hayscountycert.com to join us in managing this vaccination rollout,” he said.

In related news, Villalobos briefly discussed the alternate care site in Travis County where some COVID-19 patients who don’t require the most critical care can go, based on referrals from their health care provider. The site is managed by Capital Area of Texas Regional Advisory Council, which is comprised of a 29-county area.

He also talked about the new infusion treatment service in southeast Austin for patients who fit a narrow set of criteria established by the Texas Department of State Health Serviced (DSHS).

“We are still working to solidify the referral process and how that will be implemented,” he said.

Judge Becerra said he and other County officials will provide updates each Friday at 1 p.m. for the foreseeable future.

More information from DSHS is available at the following websites:

Austin Public Health Vaccine Pre-registration:

http://austintexas.gov/covid19-vaccines

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 Antonio Metro Health Vaccine Info:

https://covid19.sanantonio.gov/Services/Vaccination-for-COVID-19

Additional Information on Phase 1B Criteria:

According to DSHS, in Texas, 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: Because Phase 1B provides vaccine to higher-risk people regardless of their work sector or status, it will provide protection for a number of 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.

Texas DSHS defines 1B candidates as people who are 65 and older or have the medical conditions listed below and who also work in front-line and critical industries. Those who may be eligible for a vaccine under the DSHS 1B list include those age 65 and over and 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
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

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Hays County