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By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

County plans for COVID vaccine arrival


Last updated 11/24/2020 at 10:24pm

Dave Rogers

Melissa Pillsbury, front left, the Orange County Risk Management Director, accepts the 2019 Excellence in Safety Award the county received from its insurer, the Texas Association of Counties, at Tuesday's County Commissioners meeting.

Orange County officials are making preparation for the arrival of vaccine kits for the COVID-19 virus, County Judge John Gothia said after Tuesday's Commissioners' Court meeting.

But don't expect to have vaccines available in the county until late December or early 2021.

And they won't be available to the general public until after first responders, the elderly and others with underlying health issues have received the vaccinations.

The final plan for the first distribution here isn't expected until mid- to late-December, Gothia said.

"That's when we'll see how they're going to roll it out on Phase 1. They have not given us that yet," he said.

Leon George, deputy emergency management coordinator, stepped in for his boss, Joel Ardoin, at Tuesday's meeting.

He said county officials have been told that the current plan is to have five vaccination "pods" in Orange County during Phase 1 and the county has already received refrigerators in which to store vaccine kits.

"All we've had was just a discussion to determine how many [vaccinations] they're going to have," Gothia said.

"What they've got to determine is how many they're going to have and how many they can produce for each area first.

"That's the initial plan and it's subject to change because it's been moving pretty rapidly. If they get more vaccines available, they'll open more pods for it."

The list of first responders that need to be vaccinated first is long, Gothia said.

"First responders is a huge pool of people from fire departments, police, medical. A lot of people are considered first responders," he said.

"Phase 2 is those who have pre-existing conditions, those in nursing homes, it's a very broad spectrum."

Then, it's everybody else.

The good news is that three different pharmaceutical companies say they have vaccines that are 90 percent effective. Someone noted the third company to announce its vaccine ready for distribution, AstroZeneca, had 90 percent on the upside, but an average of 70 percent effective.

"What people don't realize," Gothia said, "is the flu vaccine is only 60 percent effective."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported before coronavirus surfaced in the United States this spring that the vaccine for the 2019-20 seasonal flu was only 45% effective overall.

Gothia said by the time, vaccinations are ready for the general public, it will be way past the point of vaccination "pods."

"One of the discussions they had on the phone call was that at some point, it should be available at all your major retail outlets like Walgreens, Walmart, any place that has a pharmacy," he said.

"It should be available by Phase 3, which is when the general public would be able to receive it."

In other news coming out after Tuesday's meeting, George said total COVID-19 cases for Orange County had risen by 397 infections in the past week.

The grand total of 3,592 COVID-19 cases in the county since the pandemic began includes 2,505 cases confirmed via a PCR (nasal swab) test and 1,037 "possible" cases that tested positive via an antigen test not confirmed via a lab.

The total of COVID-caused deaths reported stayed the same, at 45.

Commissioners finished up the paperwork for a $4 million tax and revenue anticipation note, which is a bank line of credit to cover any cash flow problems caused by the urgencies of paying for damage by Hurricanes Laura and Delta and the expected slowdown in receipt of property tax payments in the final months of the year.

Gothia stressed they hoped to not use a penny, thus owing only the setup fee.

They accepted a $542,632 check for sales tax receipts for September and paid $850,000 in bills for the weeks of Nov. 17 and Nov. 24.

They acknowledged receipt of a $300,000 insurance check for Hurricane Laura damage, going with an earlier $200,000 insurance check to a special budget for insurance claims.

Much of that money is going into repairing the roof of the county jail and leaks that surfaced in other county buildings from the 100 mph gusts of the storm.


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