COVID-19 vaccine

Holly Ainsworth, a nursing intern at the University of Texas, prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Stephanie Vasquez in Austin.

Johnson County Commissioner Kenny Howell, during Monday’s commissioners court meeting, wondered aloud when COVID-19 vaccinations will become available for the general public.

“I continue to get several, several calls from residents asking where we are on the vaccines and when they’re going to be available,” Howell said. “We need to figure that out and get that information out there.

The county received shipments of vaccines in December destined for medical personnel and first responders but as yet none for the public.

When that will happen is, unfortunately, anybody’s guess, County Judge Roger Harmon told Howell.

“None of us know at this point,” Harmon said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Such is not for lack of planning on Johnson County’s part, Harmon added. Unlike Tarrant County and other larger counties, Johnson County does not have a health department, Harmon said. Harmon said that he too is anxious to see the vaccine arrive for public consumption but that a recent conversation with Department of State Health Services Regional Dr. Joel Massey did little to clarify the question.

“I told Dr. Massey that people are asking a lot of questions about the vaccine and we don’t have any answers,” Harmon said. “He said they don’t have any answers yet at his level either and said, ‘Judge, we don’t know when the next shipment is coming.’”

The vaccines, Harmon explained, are distributed at the federal level to individual states who in turn are charged with distributing them to the counties.

“They’re sort of pushing the blame on counties, which makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing sometimes,” Harmon said. “But, the situation is, we’re not being informed by the state and federal levels.”

Howell commented that the vaccines that have arrived in Johnson County have, to the best of his knowledge, been administered.

Court members said they hope vaccines for the public arrive soon or at least news of when they’re scheduled to arrive. 

“It’s a benefit in one way that we’re a smaller county,” Commissioner Rick Bailey said. “But, on the other hand, those shipments of vaccines for public use are probably going to go to the bigger counties first like Harris and Dallas where they have millions of people.”

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