Rural vaccine providers in Central Texas partner to face logistical challenges


AUSTIN (KXAN) – It’s an exciting time for Jason Pool, owner of Bay Pharmacy.

His pharmacy in Horseshoe Bay has received its first 100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and it’s the brand new one.

“We’re super excited to have the opportunity to give the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” he told us Thursday.

Pool says his pharmacy got the shots through the CDC and the Good Neighbor Pharmacy Program. With a waitlist of nearly 1,000 people, however, there are many calls to be made and appointments to be scheduled by Monday, when he’ll start administering them.

“You literally have a flood going through a one-inch pipe,” he said.

Rural counties have their own logistical challenges in getting their own vaccinated. Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham says close to 40 percent of his residents are 65 and older, in a spacious county that covers nearly 1,000 square miles. He added that they’re less likely to travel to larger vaccine hubs, and some don’t even drive much at all.

“A lot of our people aren’t comfortable driving in big cities, so that’s why it’s important to keep getting the vaccine out in rural areas,” he said.

Cunningham said communication between the Llano County Health Authority and area vaccine providers is important. He says they each keep their own waitlists and combine them, about 8,000 to 10,000 people total.

Information is shared through the state’s Vaccine Allocation & Ordering System, or VAOS. Providers may share vaccine with each other to address the need and make sure doses are not wasted.

“We’re reaching out to one of the other providers saying, ‘Hey, can you take 100 doses’?” Cunningham told us.

On the plus side, Llano County has one of the better partial vaccination rates among counties in our area at 14%, according to KXAN numbers.

It helps that distribution in local rural counties has gone up significantly since January. Cunningham says Llano County administered 150 doses that month. He adds now its more like 1000 to 1200 per week.

“We’re confident now that when we receive the doses, we can distribute the doses,” he said.

Nationally, the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines has had a rocky and disappointing start, particularly for communities of color and rural populations. That was according to health expert testimony at a Congressional subcommittee hearing last week.

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