By Kerrville Daily Times News Staff, Jan. 8, 2021
Although some employees of local medical facilities and at least some nursing home residents have received the first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, mass vaccination against COVID-19 isn’t possible at this time, city officials said Thursday.
But a call center will be up and running in the next week or so to allow people to preregister for a vaccine once a sufficient stock is available, announced county emergency management coordinator William “Dub” Thomas on Thursday.
“We’re planning this for a mass vaccination in the event we get a large number of vaccines,” Thomas said during a COVID-19 update broadcast by the City of Kerrville that day.
When large amounts of the vaccine are available, it will first be distributed to healthcare workers who need it, then to people ages 65 and older who have at least one chronic medical condition, and then to everyone else, Thomas summarized.
“Kerr County has a large number of people working in healthcare – some 3,400 people who work in various medical capacities, whether they are private physicians, home health care nurses, paramedics and the like. The large number of healthcare personnel here, coupled with the small allotment of doses provided in the first round, means that many here in that first tier still need to be vaccinated,” Lisa Walter, director of Kerr County Public Relations, wrote in a statement following Thomas’ announcement.
Peterson Health explained in an e-mail to Kerrville Daily Times that they do not have vaccinations available to the general public.
“We’ve been flooded since this morning [Wednesday] with readers thinking we are a public location for the vaccine. We are not administering the vaccine to the public and have no plans to do so at this time,” wrote Director of Marketing Lisa Winters. “On Dec. 22,, we received 500 vaccines and administered all 500 to frontline employees. When/if we receive another allotment we have to use those doses to finish vaccinating our other 700-plus healthcare employees in Tier 1, as designated by the CDC.”
A new FAQ page has been added to the Peterson Health website that, in part, states, “At this time, Peterson Health is not a vaccination site for the public or community.” Additional information about testing options is also available, along with resources on updates.
None of the Kerrville locations that have received doses of the vaccine are not administering to the general public. Currently, the county is still working in Tier 1A of vaccinations, according to Walter, during which healthcare workers are those who receive the vaccine. All local healthcare representatives and officials emphasized that vaccinations are not yet available to the general public.
The city will announce the hotline number when the call center is up and running, although people can now register for the local emergency broadcast system known as CodeRed, available on the city and county websites. Once registered, people can receive, on their cell phones, notices and advisories from local officials, including information about vaccines.
Thomas is working on acquiring and lining up volunteers from the Kerr County Community Emergency Response Team and others to work the COVID-19 phone bank. Once it is in place, Kerr County residents can call and reserve their time to receive their first dose.
“We will release the phone numbers to the COVID-19 Phone Bank as soon as they are established and online for taking calls,” Thomas said. “We will make public announcements asking people to call the phone bank and set up their appointments, but again, that will not happen until we receive enough doses in our area to host a mass clinic.”
Peterson Health CEO Cory Edmondson said the hospital has been inundated with calls from people wanting to know about COVID-19 and a vaccine. For example, on Monday the hospital received an average of one phone call a minute, he said.
“It was overwhelming,” Edmondson said. “We were happy to take those calls, but we just want people to be patient with us. Leave a message, and we’ll call you back.”
Edmondson said the hospital does want more supply of the vaccine — it received 500 doses and used it all for frontline healthcare workers — adding, “We have no control over how many we get and when we receive them.”
“We have to follow the state’s protocol as to who gets it and who doesn’t, and we have to submit data on who we are vaccinating and how,” Edmondson said.
Recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine will need to be observed for 15 minutes after they receive their shots, which “would be a problem for a drive-through clinic, so the model will need to be adapted slightly,” Thomas said.
The task force is coordinating with a few, select sites around Kerrville, so that everything is set up and ready to go quickly when Kerr County receives a large enough cache of doses.
Once a large supply is available for general use, the hospital will help get it distributed “as rapidly and as efficiently as we can,” he said.
Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn conveyed a message of calm.
“I know out in the community there are people feeling fear about not getting the vaccine, but we’re working on that as hard as we can,” Blackburn said.
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