Guadalupe County authorities continue to have tough conversations with state officials in attempts to get more local residents vaccinated against COVID-19.
Amounts of vaccine doses delivered to providers inside the county is not keeping up with the needs here, Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder said.
“Currently, Guadalupe County is working with the Texas Department of State Health Services on vaccine allocations for our citizens,” he said. “Right now, what we’re seeing is a supply and demand issue.”
DSHS has recommended for more than four weeks which entities across Texas receive doses and how many, Pinder said. In that time, Guadalupe County has received about 3,300 doses, he said.
It’s just not enough to cover the 180,000 people in the county or even the 5,200 Guadalupe County healthcare workers included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — distributor of the vaccines — phase 1A, Pinder said.
Phase 1A includes front-line healthcare workers, residents at long-term care facilities. Phase 1B adds people 65 and older or those who have chronic medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to information on the DSHS website.
DSHS planned starting this week to direct most COVID-19 vaccines to large sites or hubs around the state to vaccinate more than 100,000 people, the site read.
“Spring 2021 is the best estimate of when vaccine will be available for the general public, but that may change,” according to the website. “It depends on vaccine production and how quickly other vaccines become available.”
DSHS receives estimates each week from Operation Warp Speed and the CDC on numbers of vaccine doses coming to Texas, DSHS Press Officer Douglas Loveday said. The department offers recommendations to the Texas health commissioner, who approves requests.
The commissioner sends orders to the CDC and the CDC ships doses straight to providers around the state, Loveday said.
“Again, vaccine is still limited based on the amount provided to Texas each week by the feds, so it will take time to vaccinate everyone in those priority populations who wants vaccine,” he said. “Texas gets more vaccine every week, and we expect the amount we receive to increase in the coming weeks.
“We appreciate people’s patience and understanding as we work together to ensure people who are the most at risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 are vaccinated.”
However, large distribution events are scheduled in larger areas for phase 1 recipients. Reportedly, reservations for events in nearby San Antonio filled in minutes.
Those events are open to Guadalupe County residents, Pinder said. The county still needs to vaccinate the remainder of its phase 1A recipients and start working on 1B, the emergency manager said.
“Residents of Guadalupe County are able to go to the sites in San Antonio and get the vaccine,” he said. “You can go to any distribution, public distribution site, to get the vaccine.
“Just like the tests, as long as they have a slot open, your’e able to go get it.”
The vaccine is free, but it’s still an issue of availability for many people to receive it, Pinder said.
While, Guadalupe County government itself has no mechanism currently in place to receive doses, Pinder said he and his staff are formulating a plan for distribution of a large numbers of doses to county residents when the quantity is made available.
“What people are seeing in San Antonio with the mass distribution, we are trying to get that here,” he said. “We’re fighting the larger metropolitan areas because the vaccine’s going to those areas.”
If state officials decide to steer vaccines this way, the county is able to store up to about 10,000 doses at a time, Pinder said. With enough product, the county could put together a mass distribution event and vaccinate larger swaths of Guadalupe County residents, he said.
Pinder’s office is coordinating efforts with Guadalupe Regional Medical Center and Schertz EMS to give out shots when the time comes.
Guadalupe County is part of DSHS Public Health Region 8, which covers 22 counties including Comal, Wilson and Bexar. Once Region 8 receives large quantities of doses, Guadalupe County likely will hold county-led vaccination sites for the masses, Pinder said.
Meanwhile, he said he continues to try to bring help this way.
“Guadalupe County Emergency Management will continue to look for additional vaccines from the state in the weeks to come,” Pinder said.