Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and eleven weeks into the vaccine rollout, Travis County is getting its first mass drive-thru vaccine event.
Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to set up the operation this weekend—which will focus on CommUnityCare's existing patient network, which is largely uninsured or underinsured, as well as regional school district staff who qualify as members of the 1B group—at their meeting on Tuesday. The effort is a collaboration between four Central Texas counties, including Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays.
The event, which is still being planned and for which there is not yet a set date, aims to vaccinate 3,000 people from the four participating counties. It will be held at the Circuit of the Americas and will only be open to patients with appointments made after being contacted by CommUnityCare or the school distrcits. Commissioner Brigid Shea described the outreach process as: "Don't call us, we'll call you."
The effort is the result of a series of letters sent to state and federal agencies on Feb. 12, the Friday before a series of winter storms devastated Texas. Travis County Judge Andy Brown—along with his bipartisan counterparts in Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties, CommUnityCare President and CEO Jaeson Fournier and Ascension Seton President and CEO Andy Brown—requested 50,000 vaccine doses on a weekly basis to scale up administration efforts in the region.
"Our goal is to vaccinate at least 800,000 people from all across our area by July 1, 2021. That requires roughly 50,000 vaccines a week starting in early March," they wrote. "Grocery stores, health clinics, pharmacies, and other vaccination sites will be a necessary part of this work. However, they alone will not be sufficient."
In response, the Texas Department of State Health Services allocated 3,000 doses to Ascension Seton for the drive-thru event, which Brown sees "as a test run of ramping it up at a larger location with the hope that we'll get a lot more to do more." The COTA location is "optimal," he added, because of its "turnkey availability" and proximity to the surrounding counties.
The event will build on Travis County's previous pilot drive-thru clinics, which occurred on Jan. 9 and Feb. 6. The county, in partnership with CommUnity Care and Ascension Seton, vaccinated 641 people during the first event, exceeding their goal of 600 because the pharmacy team was able to draw extra doses. The second event, which provided second doses, served 660 people. Over the course of the two events, Travis County was able to shorten the average time spent—from entering the drive-thru line to leaving after observation—from 46 minutes to 19 minutes. "It was an incredibly successful effort in terms of efficiency and safety," Brown said.
With this event approved by commissioners, county staff are working on planning. "We are working feverishly at this point to make this a success," Travis County Emergency Services Executive Chuck Brotherton said.
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