The time frame for additional COVID-19 vaccinations become available for county residents remains up in the air for now, Johnson County and Cleburne officials said last week.
Officials from both entities stressed that they are as frustrated over the situation as the public.
“Right now it’s a situation of hurry up and wait from the state,” Mayor Scott Cain said during Tuesday’s Cleburne City Council meeting.
An unfortunate reality Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore shared during Monday’s meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court.
“People call our office all the time about the vaccine,” Moore said. “All we can tell them right now is that there is no news because there’s little communication between the state and cities and counties. We contacted the Texas Department of State and Health Services branch in Arlington asking when more vaccines were coming and were told that they don’t know.”
Supply and logistics play into the shortage, Moore said.
“There are only six manufacturers of the vaccine at this point,” Moore said. “Others are still in the testing phase but for now there are only six. China and Russia each have their own manufacturer. That leaves four companies otherwise to manufacture vaccines for the entire world. There’s just not enough doses available yet for everybody and the best estimates we’re getting at this point is that it will be June or July before they become widely available.”
Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon explained that the federal government allocates vaccine dosages to the states who in turn allocate them to cities and regions.
“At this point there are still doctors, nurses, first responders who haven’t been vaccinated because there simply aren’t enough doses available yet,” Moore added. “The manufacturers can only produce them as fast as they can.
“You’ll also see reports in the media where one jurisdiction received 1,000 doses but have only administered 200. People rightfully wonder why that is. Well, because it takes time.
“You have to pull up the vaccine, thaw it, go through the process of inputing people’s information then have people sit for 15 minutes after to ensure there are no side effects. That all takes time unless you have significant manpower to administer the vaccines. It’s not just run 1,000 people through and give them shots.
“So yes, those places probably do have 1,000 vaccines but they probably have people scheduled out for appointments and in many cases they probably lack manpower.
“Cleburne received 500 doses for first responders and it took about a week to administer those because of the process involved.”
Cleburne Fire Chief Scott Lail, during Tuesday’s council meeting, confirmed that the city received 500 vaccines and subsequently 500 follow up vaccines. Cleburne in fact was one of the first 10 non-hospital providers in the state to receive vaccines, Lail added.
“We don’t have any new allocations of first doses,” Lail said. “We don’t have any information at this point when we will get more.”
Harmon and others noted that Gov. Greg Abbott has since increased the pool of people eligible for the vaccine beyond first responders and medical personnel
“The problem there is there’s been no new allocation of vaccines,” Harmon said. “More are eligible but the vaccines aren’t available yet and so it’s caused a gap and expectations on the public’s part.”
Harmon and Cain credited Tarrant County Judge Glenn Whitley for reaching out to Johnson and surrounding counties to help make the vaccine available to more.
The problem there, Moore said, is that Tarrant County only received 19,000 doses last week while Dallas County received about 23,000. Johnson County so far has only received roughly 1,900 doses officials said with all but the 500 allocated to Cleburne Fire Department having been scheduled for nursing home residents.
Johnson County residents are free to call Tarrant County to get on their list, officials said, but added that Tarrant County’s waiting list sits at about 100,000.
Lail added that his department has received more than 3,000 requests to get on their list.
“It’s not that we want to lower peoples’ expectations,” Moore said. “It’s just that we want to relay the reality that it’s going to take a while before the vaccines are widely available.”
“We understand that obviously people are upset over the situation and want the vaccine,” Lail said. “I know the mayor and council have been catching flak. But the reality right now is it’s out of their hands. It’s out of my hands. We’re at the mercy of the state right now.
“If they allocate more we will vaccinate more. But we can’t even go on the state site and get more at this point. They send emails saying we’re allocated this much when they do allocate and that’s the process right now.
“We anticipate that somewhere in the future vaccines will become more readily available but we’ve been given no time frame for when that will be just yet.”
Cain called the situation frustrating.
“It’s important for the community to know that council and staff are working as hard and fast as we can. We don’t like that people have to go to Tarrant County to get it right now. The problem we continue to have is there’s no communication from the state.
“People say, ‘Work harder. Go to Austin.’ But there’s no place to go in Austin. There’s no particular point or contact person on this.”
Moore and Lail encouraged residents to check the county and city websites for updates on vaccine availability.