Health department continues quest for additional COVID vaccines in Brown County

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
COVID vaccine

The Brownwood/Brown County Health Department is taking multiple paths as it seeks state allocations of the COVID vaccine, Health Administrator Lisa Dick said.

Those paths include seeking designation by the state as a vaccination hub. The health department has also asked that Brown County be included in the State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program, although Dick didn’t think Brown County will likely be included in that program since the county has both a health department and a hospital.

On Jan. 26, the health department requested from the state an allocation of 1,000 doses — its largest request so far. The health department will learn this weekend or early next week how the state will respond, Dick said.

"I don't care how it comes. I just want it to be here," Dick said of the vaccine. “We’ve been working really hard, trying to reach out and see if we can get additional vaccine here to Brownwood, so we’re just going to continue working on that. We're asking for all of those things and we're asking more than one way. We are asking any place that we think would give us an opportunity for someone to say 'yes.' So we're asking every which way we can to get vaccines here."

In Brown County, 1,101 individuals had received the first dose of the two-dose Moderna vaccine as of Thursday, the City of Brownwood said. Five hundred had received both doses.

Beginning in late December, vaccines were available in Brownwood for frontline health care workers and first responders, referred to as the 1A group.

The state has said those in the 1B group — which includes individuals 65 or older or who have certain underlying health conditions — are eligible for the vaccine. A local pharmacy administered 100 vaccines to the 1B group in January, Dick said.

Earlier this month, a local pharmacy administered 100 doses to individuals in the 1B group, she said.

More than 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Texas, the Austin American-Statesman reported. 

Roughly 370,000 Texans are fully vaccinated, meaning they've received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the Statesman reported.

But Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services and chair of the state's Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said she's not satisfied with the number of doses administered or the current supply that's been made available to Texas through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Statesman reported.

"We are not satisfied with where we are,” the Statesman quoted her as saying. “We will work to improve how quickly we get it out. We'll continue to fight for us getting more vaccines to Texas."

In Brown County, Dick said the health department envisions establishing a drive-through vaccination clinic in Brown County and administering up to 1,000 doses a week — if the state makes that many doses available.

Speaking to Brown County Commissioners Court members on Jan. 25, Dick said such a clinic would require staffing of about 40.

“I don’t have 40 people in the health department, so I will be asking for additional assistance and help,” Dick said.

The commissioners court will “move a mountain for you,” Brown County Judge Paul Lilly told Dick.

Lilly said emergency-use authorization for the the manufacturer of a third vaccine — Johnson and Johnson — could be days away. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine, if approved, will be a one-dose vaccine.

“Now that would be huge,” Lilly said. “Apparently its much easier to manufacture, from what I’m being told, so they can make it a lot faster.”

The City of Brownwood has made a “COVID-19 Vaccination List" available on its web and Facebook pages, where individuals can fill out basic contact information.

"Please enter your contact information in order to be notified when COVID-19 vaccines are available,” the online instructions state. “This form will serve as a contact list to be used by the Brownwood/Brown County Health Department when there are vaccines available for qualifying groups. The Health Department may share this list with local providers who have vaccines in order to expedite vaccine distribution."

Dick said while the health department is still waiting on an answer to its 1,000-dose request, she has learned “at least a small amount” of the vaccines will be coming to Brownwood sometime next week. She thinks the doses will go to a local health care provider and not the health department.

As Brown County continues its push to receive vaccines, the emphasis needs to continue on preventing the spread of the virus, Dick said.

“Early on, if we would have had 540 active cases like what we (had recently), we would have been more in a panic mode. I just think it has continued long enough that we are kind of accepting that as part of our normal lives, and that’s kind of a scary thing," Dick said.

“We still need to continue to do the preventative measures, certainly.”

As of Thursday, there were 423 active COVID cases in Brown County, with 15 local hospitalizations.