State begins vaccinating general population; Approved vaccine providers now registering adults

HARLINGEN — People are signing up to get their shots as Texas on Monday opened its COVID-19 vaccination program to the general population.

While city and county officials are planning mass vaccination clinics, state-approved doctors’ offices and pharmacies were registering people as Texas begins vaccinating those 16 and older about three weeks ahead of the national goal.

“We know this marks a very important day,” Melissa Elizardi, Cameron County’s spokeswoman, said Monday.

By May 1, federal officials expect to boost the vaccine supply to make doses available to all adults, President Joe Biden announced Monday.

The federal government has authorized only the Pfizer vaccine for administration to 16 and 17 year olds, while it’s approved the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for those 18 and older.

Now, county health officials are waiting on the state to bump up the county’s weekly allotment of 6,000 doses to allow it to expand its vaccination program.

“We are currently evaluating this week’s allocation by the state to partner with area municipalities, doctors’ offices and pharmacies,” Elizardi said.

In Cameron County, state health officials have also shipped vaccine to state-approve providers including 1,170 doses to the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Harlingen; 100 doses to Brownsville Pharmacy No. 2; 1,000 doses to the state health department in Harlingen; 200 doses to Garcia Pharmacy in Harlingen; and 100 doses to Dr. Stephanie Garcia’s office in Harlingen, Elizardi said.

At many state-approved vaccine providers, such as doctors’ offices and pharmacies, staff is vaccinating clients while registering others for their vaccinations.

As of Monday, the county has fully vaccinated 15.8 percent of its 421,750 population, or about 66,759 people, and partially vaccinated about 28.8 percent, or about 121,774, according to NYDataBases.com.

Willacy to start vaccinating next week

Next week, Willacy County officials plan to start vaccinating the general public.

On Monday, state health officials set aside a 2,000-doses of the Moderna vaccine for the county, Ben Clinton, the Raymondville school district’s deputy superintendent, said.

“We intend to vaccinate every adult that wants to receive a dose,” he said.

State health officials are waiting for the federal government to ship more vaccine doses as manufacturers ramp up production.

“They indicated the supply is increasing,” Clinton said. “The availability of vaccine is increasing. We’re anticipating more doses.”

In this rural county of about 22,000 residents, Superintendent Stetson Roane’s shooting to reach “herd immunity” through the vaccination of about 70 percent of the population to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“The superintendent started this effort with the intent to reach herd immunity as quickly as possible and cut the death rate due to COVID-19 to zero,” Clinton said. “We have been working with the county to successfully hold these clinics and we plan to continue.”

As of Monday, the county had fully vaccinated 11.6 percent of its population, or 2,539 people, and partially vaccinated 28 percent, or 6,116, according to NYDataBases.com.

City officials planning vaccination clinics

At Harlingen City Hall, officials are planning community vaccination clinics aimed at vaccinating the general public by summer, Josh Ramirez, the city’s public health director, said.

“We’re looking to administer to the general population,” he said. “We’ll open up vaccine clinics to those 18 and over,” he said.

Officials are waiting for the federal government to boost supply, he said.

“It all depends on how much vaccine we get,” Ramirez said. “They say it’s coming but I don’t see it yet.”

In Port Isabel and Santa Rosa, officials are registering people to set up their vaccination appointments.

“Anybody who’s eligible will be vaccinated,” Jared Hockema, who serves as city manager for Port Isabel and Santa Rosa, said. “We already have names of people who are eligible. We are encouraging people to continue to register.”

But officials are waiting on the state’s vaccine shipments to set up vaccination clinics, Hockema said.

“It depends on what the county receives and what they give us,” he said. “We all expect it to ramp up — it hasn’t yet, in terms of availability.”

fdelvalle@valleystar.com