The Record Newspapers - Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

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By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

Rollout of vaccine tough to swallow


Last updated 1/20/2021 at 12:17am

Waldo's got nothing on Covid-19 vaccinations when it comes to being hard to find in Orange County.

If you looked fast, the county was supposed to get 100 vaccines at each of four pharmacies this week – Kroger's and Walgreens on 16th Street in Orange, the Main Street Brookshire Brothers in Vidor, and the Bridge City Walmart.

The state has set up about 75 vaccine hubs, including one in Chambers County, two in Galveston County, one at the Jasper-Newton Health Department and another at the Jefferson County Health Department near the Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Mid-County.

Stories of people "jumping the line" and being vaccinated before it was "their turn" began appearing the first day vaccines were given in the United States.

Recently, it was disclosed that the Austin health director had ignored state guidelines and was vaccinating some lawmakers in town for the every-other-year meeting of the Texas Legislature.

House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont was among those who announced he'd wait until all others in groups ahead of his 45-and-healthy age group had been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Beaumont's other state rep, Democrat Joe Deshotel, tested positive for Covid-19 after a view days of the session.

It's hard, however, to find out what is the proper order.

According to the state's Department of State Health Services, healthcare workers, nursing homes, school nurses and "last responders" (undertakers) were top priority for the vaccine, followed by people over 65 and people between 16-65 with medical conditions that put them at greater risk are next.

There's no mention of police officers, Sheriff's departments or fire departments.

But Orange County Judge John Gothia and Joel Ardoin, the county's emergency management coordinator, both cite (and circulate on the county's emergency management department Facebook page) a different set of priorities.

It calls for healthcare workers to be followed in the vaccination line by law enforcement personnel, full-time and volunteer firemen and school teachers and other educational workers ahead of people in nursing homes, adults 65+ and others with dangerous medical conditions.

Ardoin said that list cited by county officials comes from a group called SETRAC, the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

According to CEO Darrell Pile, the Houston-based SETRAC is over Trauma Service Area R, the nine-county area to which Orange County was assigned by the state.

"During a disaster like Covid, my organization, SETRAC, steps in and helps lead things in your area," he said.

Pile didn't seem familiar with Ardoin's list. He referred a caller to the DSHS website, regarding Phase 1B vaccine allocation.

It says: "COVID-19 has the most severe effects on people who are 65 years and older and individuals with comorbidities. Protecting these higher-risk individuals is of the utmost concern in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Phase 1B of vaccination will focus on people for whom there is strong and consistent evidence that COVID-19 makes them more likely to become very sick or die. Preventing the disease among people who have these risk factors will dramatically reduce the number of Texans who die from the disease and relieve pressure on the healthcare system by reducing hospital and ICU admissions."

Again, no mention of law enforcers, firefighters or school teachers, yet Gothia said on Jan. 5, pre-appointment phone interviews were already being set up for those groups. A quick survey of several World War II veterans, men in their 90s, showed they'd received no phone calls to pre-schedule their vaccinations.

Mostly, though, people are beginning to notice the difference between the daily images of people lined up for drive-through vaccines in some states and the lack of availability in Orange County.

"Availability of the vaccine has been a problem," Pile acknowledged. "And while someone may be eligible, they may have to wait longer for the vaccine to arrive."

Orange County doesn't have a hospital or a health department. Chambers County, a county with half as many residents as Orange County, has both. It received 1,300 doses of vaccine this week.

Be patient. And be safe, everyone urges.

"We're close to a light at the end of the tunnel of the vaccine being able to do its job and help us to a recovery," Gothia said. "So we can't let our guard down, we can't let somebody get sick and we lose more people."


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