By Tiffiney Gray
Last week, Prosper Waco partnered with Mayor Dillon Meek to share key information with faith leaders about the unfolding COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans. Even during this time of rapidly evolving information – guidance from federal and state authorities is changing frequently – we think it’s important to share what we know right now and emphasize our commitment to disseminating information as it becomes available.
Vaccines Are an Important Tool
Vaccines are an important tool to help stop the coronavirus pandemic. The currently available vaccines come from Pfizer and Moderna, and individuals will need two doses from the same manufacturer, spaced 21 or 28 days apart.
Although vaccines are a strong tool offering some protection from COVID-19, they are one part of a broader strategy to curb the pandemic. We still need to uphold safety practices like wearing our masks, washing our hands frequently, and watching our distance (maintaining about 6 feet of space from others when in public).
Here’s What We Know Now
Right now, there is a limited supply of the vaccines. Priority is for 1A distribution.
Vaccinations are currently scheduled by appointment only, and walk-up services are not available.
Waco has 18 vaccine providers. (Mapped here)
Nursing homes have separate arrangements with vaccine providers.
Public vaccination clinics are being planned for the future.
Tiered Vaccination Phases
The Texas Department of State Health Services is managing statewide distribution to local health departments, hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics. As these entities receive their allocations, they are actively vaccinating residents based on a tiered system of eligibility criteria outlined by federal and state authorities.
For those of us who have traveled with airlines using a group boarding system (e.g., Boarding Group A, Boarding Group B, etc.), we can think of the vaccination rollout in a similar way. Healthcare workers, first responders, and vulnerable health populations are in the Phase 1 priority group. But due to limited supply of the vaccine, this group is also segmented into Phases 1A and 1B.
As production and national distribution continues, we expect wider availability of the vaccine, but until then Texas is adhering to this tiered schedule.
When Can I Receive a Vaccine?
If you are a front-line healthcare worker, first or last responder, a resident of a long-term care facility, or another direct care staff person (Phase 1A), contact one of several local vaccine providers to schedule an appointment.
If you think you might be a member of a prioritized vulnerable health population (Phase 1B) with one of the conditions listed below, you may call one of these vaccine providers to find out about their supply and schedule an appointment. However, due to limited supply most providers may have to put callers on a waitlist due to inventory being exhausted weekly.
Phase 1B Includes
People 65 years of age and older, and
People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness, including but not limited to: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies), solid organ transplantation, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
Where Are the Vaccines in Waco?
Vaccines have been distributed to health departments, hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics and will continue to be delivered to providers each week. Right now, the providers listed below have received vaccine allocations. This list updates weekly, so check the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine Information page and Vaccine Provider Map for the most current information.
Ascension Providence Hospital
Ascension Medical Group Providence at Lakeshore
Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest
Brookshires Pharmacies (select locations, see map for specific addresses)
HEB Pharmacies (select locations, see map for specific addresses)
Lynn’s LaVega Pharmacy
Premier ER and Urgent Care
Premier ER Waco
Waco Center for Youth
Waco Family Health Center, South 18th Community Clinic
Waco-McLennan County Public Health District
What About Nursing Homes?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has partnered with CVS and Walgreens as two of the main providers to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services for residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These retail pharmacy providers are managing logistics directly with nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Waco-McLennan County.
New processes require patience and flexibility. The Texas Department of State Health Services determines the number of doses and distribution schedule to vaccine provider locations, and due to the limited supply of vaccines some providers deplete their weekly allocations before meeting all of the local demand. City of Waco leaders along with the public health district and other health providers are making plans to launch public vaccination clinics in the future as supplies become more available.
This is a rapidly-evolving situation and our community leaders are following guidance from federal and state authorities. Sometimes this guidance changes week to week and day to day. So, our response requires flexibility and patience. We anticipate it will take several months to vaccinate McLennan County. Until then let’s remember the three Ws:
Wear your mask, covering mouth and nose
Wash your hands, frequently, with soap, and for 20 seconds
Watch your distance, striving to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet whenever possible.
Tiffiney Gray was senior content specialist for health. She is no longer with Prosper Waco.