HARLINGEN — Cameron County will hold its first COVID-19 community vaccination clinic in Harlingen on Friday, targeting people 65 and older and those suffering underlying medical conditions.
Now, the county’s health officials are planning to hold vaccination clinics every week, depending on the availability of the coronavirus vaccine, Josh Ramirez, the city’s public health director, said Wednesday.
So far, the county has 1,000 vaccine doses available for Friday’s clinic at the Casa del Sol community center, while it has requested 1,000 more doses, he said.
The clinic will be open to Harlingen residents and those living outside the city, Ramirez said.
In Cameron County, the clinic will become the first venue to distribute the vaccine to people outside a group made up of health care workers, first responders and nursing homes.
“We’re pleased to be able to support the county’s effort in sponsoring this vaccination clinic as we get to the next group of people,” Mayor Chris Boswell said.
“People need to be patient,” he said. “We look forward to start distributing to a wider population as vaccines become more plentiful.”
On Friday, officials plan to distribute the vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis, Ramirez said.
“There’s a huge demand,” he said, noting the Rio Grande Valley’s high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. “There’s a huge population in the Valley.”
Officials will request people suffering underlying medical problems describe their conditions, Ramirez said.
“As the person arrives at the site, there will be forms to fill out with questions such as ‘Do you suffer from underlying medical conditions,’” he said.
Underlying conditions include cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, immune-compromised diseases, chronic lung disease, sickle cell disease, chronic heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic neurological disease, morbid obesity and pregnancy, he said.
“That’s our most vulnerable population affected by COVID-19,” he said.
So far, plans are calling for the clinic at Casa del Sol, a community center with a capacity of 640 at 211 E. Madison Ave., to open at 7 a.m., Ramirez said.
“There’s going to be a limit on how many people will be allowed at one time,” he said. “They have to comply with social distancing requirements.”
After administering the vaccine, officials will request a 15-minute observation period, Ramirez said.
“The patients will be monitored for any side effects or reactions,” he said.
Working on logistics
Officials continue to work out details involved in holding the event in a neighborhood setting, Ramirez said.
“We’re still working on the logistics,” he said. “It is a challenge to vaccinate mass populations, especially when there’s so much demand.”
Ramirez described the county’s first vaccination clinic as “a good start.”
“We understand it’s not going to get everybody,” he said. “We’re asking people to be patient.”
County health officials are planning to hold vaccination clinics every week, depending on the availability of the vaccine, he said.
“Our interest is to continue requesting these vaccines on a weekly basis,” he said. “Cameron County is going to be setting up several of these locations.”
Health officials are planning to begin vaccinating the general population around March or April.
“Eventually, we’ll get everybody requesting one,” Ramirez said. “We’re trying to move as fast as we can.”
Event marks Valley’s third vaccination clinic
The Harlingen event will be the Valley’s third community vaccination clinic.
On Tuesday, Hidalgo County officials held a vaccination clinic at the Rio Grande Valley Live Stock Show Grounds in Mercedes, where they offered the vaccine to health care workers, those 65 and older and those 18 and older suffering underlying medical conditions.
Today, Hidalgo officials are holding a vaccination clinic at La Joya’s Lincoln Building, aimed at health care workers, those 65 and older and those 18 and older suffering underlying medical conditions.