AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a letter sent on Monday, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra pleaded with Gov. Greg Abbott to better include local public health agencies in Texas’ rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Considering the distribution of vaccines throughout the state, I am concerned that the Local Public Health Departments have not been highlighted as priority providers, consistently throughout the state,” Becerra wrote.
Local public health agencies have largely been left out of Texas’ decentralized vaccination effort, which sent a vast majority of doses to healthcare providers and pharmacies for frontline workers and first responders.
With no federal or statewide platform for the public to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, healthcare providers have been inundated with calls, leaving many patients who are unable to secure an appointment confused and frustrated.
“We are on the pulse of our local community and can ensure that we are identifying our most vulnerable needs and populations,” said Becerra, who in December announced his entire family had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Hays County Local Health Department hasn’t received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Austin Public Health has received only 1,300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
KXAN has asked DSHS why the state’s vaccination plan didn’t mirror its coronavirus testing blitz from early on in the pandemic when public health agencies were the driving force behind testing.
Dr. Jason McKnight, a clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine, said it’s unfair to expect perfection with an unprecedented mass vaccination event. Still, he’s surprised public health agencies haven’t been more involved in the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I, personally, would have hoped that there would have been more of a mass effort on the part of the distribution and actual vaccination of individuals,” McKnight said. “I think that we need better and centralized information going out not only to the public but also to healthcare providers.”
In a tweet on Monday, Abbott pointed out mass vaccination events are taking place in some areas of the state.