Raymondville school district becomes vaccine hub

RAYMONDVILLE — The Raymondville school district is turning into Willacy County’s COVID-19 distribution hub.

Earlier this week, the Texas Department of State Health Services designated the district a vaccine provider following its purchase of a pharmaceutical refrigerator and laboratory freezer, Ben Clinton, the district’s deputy superintendent, said Wednesday.

“You have to have the capacity to safely store the vaccine,” he said, referring to the state’s designation.

Now, district officials are awaiting their first vaccine shipment, expected to arrive next week, he said, adding he’s requested the state send 2,500 doses.

The district’s new storage capacity makes it the county’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution center.

“I’m humbled to be a part of vaccinating Willacy County,” Superintendent Stetson Roane stated. “Our county, city, local doctors and volunteers deserve all the credit for the success of the clinics we’ve hosted so far. We look forward to working together again as soon as Raymondville ISD starts to receive vaccines from the state.”

First area district designated as provider

The school district becomes the first district in the area to become a state-approved vaccine provider, Clinton said.

“In Willacy and Cameron County, there’s not another school district that’s an approved provider,” he said, adding the state has approved the McAllen and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school districts as providers in Hidalgo County.

Vaccine storage capacity

Clinton believes the purchase of the refrigerator and freezer will lead state officials to ship the county more vaccine doses.

“If they have the supply, we’re ready to receive that amount,” he said. “It will be shipped directly to Raymondville ISD.”

The $5,000, 13.8-cubic-foot pharmaceutical refrigerator can store as many as 1,000 vaccine vials, or 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which requires short-term storage temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, and the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which can be stored at regular refrigerator temperature, Clinton said.

Meanwhile, he said, the $2,000, 5.5-cubic-foot laboratory freezer, which can store the Moderna vaccine at long-term temperatures of negative 15 to negative 25, can also stow an additional 3,000 doses.

Along with the purchases, officials bought a $1,300 data logger, a censor which measures the refrigerator and freezer temperatures.

“We’re monitoring the temperature 24 hours,” Clinton said, adding the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to reimburse the purchases.

First-hand learning tools

Now, the pharmaceutical refrigerator and laboratory freezer are part of the Raymondville Early College High School’s Health Careers Academy, where students are learning first-hand about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have our students helping out in the vaccination clinics,” Clinton said. “Now they’ll be able to see the pharmaceutical side. They’re going to see how vaccines are stored and how they’re distributed from the ground up.”

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