Austin, Travis County health groups change strategy to boost vaccination numbers in areas falling behind

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas health organizations are pushing forward with new incentives, like gift cards and t-shirts, in an attempt to reach the goal of a 70% COVID-19 vaccinated community by July 4.

Central Health, in partnership with Austin Public Health (APH), Travis County, and CommUnityCare Health Centers, will hold daily mobile pop-up vaccination sites in Travis County locations with lower than 50% vaccination rates as part of the “Let’s Stick Together” initiative, according to a release from Central Health and APH.

Aside from the incentives to get vaccinated, providers will also be paid to vaccinate people in high-risk communities, the release says.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown told KXAN Tuesday that although vaccination rates have slowed significantly, lack of interest in the vaccine is not completely to blame.

“There are still a lot of people out there that want the vaccine,” Brown said. “They just aren’t able to go somewhere to get it.”

Central Health’s Senior Director of Health and Wellness Initiatives, Elizabeth Marrero says many of those people work jobs where they get paid by the hour and are worried about missing out on income.

“They can’t miss that only to try to find the location, and then there’s people who have heard you have to wait a long time. It takes a long time to get through it. And then you’re sick the next day. So all these things that they’ve heard, they’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t afford it.'”

Central Health hopes the $25 gift cards it will offer at many of the pop-up vaccination sites will help offset some of those concerns.

With less than a week before the July 4 weekend, Travis County is inching closer to 70% of its residents having at least one dose of the vaccine.

According to APH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 69% of the Travis County population age 12 and older are vaccinated with at least one dose, and 59% are fully vaccinated.

Change in Austin/Travis County’s vaccine strategy

APH and Travis County say they’ve adjusted their vaccination strategy to be more available to high-risk ZIP codes communities with lower vaccination rates. Health leaders say the strategy focuses on pop-up mobile sites at churches, neighborhood stores, community centers and libraries along with mass vaccination hubs at the Travis County Expo Center.

The sites don’t require payment, appointments, or identification.

“Each and every person in this community counts and we won’t stop until everyone is protected from COVID-19. Think of this vaccine effort like you would Election Day – make a plan to get vaccinated, and bring your family, friends and coworkers to get vaccinated with you,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said.

While local leaders feel that at this point, localized vaccine pop-ups will be more effective, Judge Brown says they don’t plan to shut down their Travis County Expo Center mass vaccination site, yet. County leaders say that site may get busier as kids get closer to going back to school.

Brown says he and county commissioners are also looking into starting a door to door approach, similar to what’s being done in Harris County. They would go to neighborhoods and offer to vaccinate people right at home.

Which organizations are involved in this initiative?

  • Central Health
  • CommUnityCare
  • Sendero
  • Austin Public Health
  • Travis County 
  • Ascension Seton
  • Austin ISD
  • Baylor Scott & White
  • Capital Metro
  • Del Valle ISD
  • Integral Care
  • Lone Star Circle of Care 
  • People’s Community Clinic
  • St. David’s HealthCare
  • St. David’s Foundation
  • The University of Texas at Austin, including UT Health Austin, Dell Medical School, UT School of Nursing and University Health Services
  • United Way for Greater Austin

The city of Austin has listed some of the available walk-up clinic locations on its website. Travis County has listed the four JD’s Supermarket locations people can visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both are working together to launch a calendar and interactive map that will show daily mobile vaccination sites. Central Health says that should be available to the public in the next few days.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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