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OP-ED: Citizen raises concerns on vaccine availability

Sheri Bethard

To the Citizens of Orange County
In case you are not aware, Orange County citizens are having to call the Hardin County Health Department to set up appointments for our vaccines? Where is the Orange County Health Department in all this?

I called Monday, Jan 4 to Hardin County to confirm if this was correct about Orange County contacting them for our COVID vaccines. The answer was yes and they proceeded to take my name and number saying someone would get back with me. Well, today is Wednesday, Jan 6 after 6 p.m. and I have not heard from anyone. They said they are contracted to handle Orange County also.  I can understand they are busy, but I also understand there is possibly ONE person handling the callbacks.

Why is this ONE person handling both Hardin and Orange Counties? They should have brought in more people to handle this knowing one person would not be enough. If Orange County contracted with them, that should have included additional people for call handling. If we sign up with Hardin County Health does that mean we will have to go there to get our vaccines or will we be able to get them in Orange County at one of the 4 locations that will be available in Week 4 of distribution?

Orange County is behind the curve in distributing the vaccine to those of us 65 and over. This past weekend, Jan 2, on the CBS News, we saw a report of a pharmacist in the town of Magnolia who was already giving vaccines to the citizens 65+ of his town. They were allocated 500 vaccines. Why would a small town of about 2,000 residents receive this many vaccines when Orange County hasn’t received 200 for Phase 1b?

In fact Hardin County will have 5 locations which are giving the shots and Orange County only has ONE location in Phase 1b. We listened to Judge Gothia’s broadcast on the KOGT website and he did not give us any information we did not already know.  He said nothing about Phase 1b. Then this morning, Thursday, Jan. 7, we listened to Dr. Parker’s interview on KOGT. The most we got out of this was there is a panel at the State level who is deciding who and how many vaccines are sent out.

It seems as tho people are getting their vaccines all around the state except for Orange County. Then in today’s, Jan 6, Orange Leader, Judge Gothia said the County was originally set for 200 vaccines and he asked for more for the County and we will receive more than originally scheduled for the county. He also mentioned Walgreen’s and CVS and another one just signed contracts yesterday for the next batch. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Department website I looked at Monday, these places in Week 4 are already set for distribution to 3 Walgreen’s and Brookshire’s. CVS is not mentioned on the list for Orange County at all.

The website has the allocation for each county in each of the first 4 weeks and where there are to go. The schedule is as follows:

Week 1, 12-14-2020 Orange County received ZERO vaccine allocations, Hardin County ZERO, Jasper County ZERO.

Week 2, 12-18-2020 Orange County received 200 Moderna vaccines, Hardin County received 1600 vaccines and Jasper County 800 vaccines. Orange County population per the US Census July 2019 is 83,396, with 16.5% or 13,760 age 65+; Hardin County is 57,602, with 16.9% or 9,735 age 65+; Jasper County is 35,529 with 20.2% or 7,136 age 65+. The 200 vaccines in Orange County were received at Brookshire’s in Vidor.

Week 3 date unknown Orange County is scheduled to receive ZERO vaccines, Hardin County 100 vaccines, Jasper County ZERO.

Week 4 date unknown Orange County is scheduled to receive 400, Hardin County 300 and Jasper County 300. This week the vaccines for Orange County are to go as follows: 100 each to 3 of the Walgreens in the County and Brookshire’s. None to any CVS unless there are updates and they are added later.

So, totally for the 4 weeks of distribution as follows:

Orange County       600

Hardin County       2,000

Jasper County       1,100

Why is Orange County, who has a larger population and more people 65+, getting less vaccines than these two smaller counties? Who decided we only needed 600 vaccines the first 4 weeks? What are our County Officials doing to HELP those of us living in Orange County?

Why are we left in the dark? Nothing is even said on the local television news channels about Orange County, why not? We hear about Jefferson and Hardin Counties. Do the Orange County officials not want the citizens to know what is going on? I have found more information by researching online than what we are being told.

Thanks to the daughter of a friend of mine who lives in Austin, she made an appointment for her mother who lived in Orange. I have learned the Walgreen’s are making appointments now for the vaccine in Phase 1b or those 65 and older. I was able to secure an appointment time for both my husband and myself for this weekend.

So thru researching we have found vaccine availability without the help of our local officials. The citizens of Orange County would like answers as to why they are not telling us anything.

Sheri Bethard
Orangefield