With new COVID-19 cases in Comal County reaching the century mark on Wednesday and with local hospital wards filling, county health officials say they are unsure when the next allocation of vaccines will arrive but are advocating with state officials about the need for more doses.
During a Facebook Live panel about the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, Cheryl Fraser, Comal County public health director, said county health officials have received 200 Moderna vaccines and are hopeful they will receive a similar allocation next week.
“That’s not guaranteed, so I keep encouraging people to check our website,” Fraser said. “The website will be updated as soon as more vaccine is available to the public.”
Fraser said the state controls the number of vaccinations and where they go.
“The state will decide,” she said. “And they have a committee that reviews that and decides who will get those vaccines. The earliest we would know will be Monday. They wouldn’t be here Monday. We would just know they are on the way. We just have to keep watching for it and waiting. I hate to say it, but we’re in the dark until we know.”
There are no residency requirements to receive the vaccine, Fraser said.
Comal County residents can pursue vaccination in other counties, while Guadalupe County residents can receive a vaccination in Comal County and other counties as well.
“We as public health, the county and the city, are working together to advocate for more vaccine to be sent to the county,” she said. “We’re excited that there’s so much interest, and we wish we had thousands of doses. And we’re prepared when we do receive thousands of doses, to get those into people.”
For more information, visit www.co.comal.tx.us/health.htm. The public can click on the emergency preparedness page to find a link to a list of vaccine provider locations and availability.
Most of those vaccinated in the first wave of administrations included frontline health workers and some first responders. Both New Braunfels hospitals began vaccinating some of their staff at the end of the year.
According to Fraser, the county has 56 registered vaccine providers.
Of those, she said, only 16 have received vaccines.
The county has received 4,100 vaccine doses, and Fraser said all of those first doses had been administered.
She said they are hopeful county providers will receive a similar amount in the next few weeks.
Earlier this week, Texas health officials released a list of coronavirus “vaccination hubs” that will receive the state’s next shipment of vaccines, but none of those hubs. However, none of those are located in Comal or Guadalupe counties.
The 28 hubs, located mostly in metropolitan areas, were scheduled to get 158,825 doses of the vaccine this week, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Another 38,300 doses were allotted to go to other providers across the state.
The number of doses that each provider is getting is based on its own estimate of how many people it could vaccinate in a week, DSHS officials said.
The hubs are meant to streamline large-scare vaccination as state health officials continue to prioritize vaccinating people who are health care workers, people who are 65 and older, and those with medical conditions that increase their risk.
In announcing the plan, DSHS officials said the hubs would be required to set up registration phone numbers and websites and to focus on the most vulnerable communities in their regions.
The sites are providing initial vaccinations to those most at risk of exposure to COVID-19 regardless of where they reside.
Two of those hubs are in Bexar County:
San Antonio Metro Health District, phone: 210-207-6000 (select option 8), website: covid19.sanantonio.gov/vaccine
University Health System, phone: 210-644-1960, website: wecandoitsa.com
Individuals have been placed in two groups, designated as Phase 1A and 1B:
Phase 1A: Frontline healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities.
Phase 1B: People over 65 or with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID‑19.
According to DSHS, some of these chronic conditions are:
Chronic kidney disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathy.
Obesity and severe obesity.
Sickle cell disease.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Dr. Emily Briggs, a member of the Comal County COVID-19 Physicians Advisory Committee, who was also on the Facebook panel, said local hospitals are filling with COVID-19 patients.
According to Briggs, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - New Braunfels was caring for 27 COVID patients on Wednesday, with four of those people in the intensive care unit. Three of those patients were on ventilators.
Resolute Health Hospital was caring for 47 COVID patients on Wednesday, with 13 of those in the ICU. Eight of those patients were on ventilators.
Hospital administrators have said that those numbers change constantly.
“That’s something that I know nationwide has been on and off a concern,” Briggs said. “In our town, we still have beds available, but it’s getting very tight. That’s a scary situation, but something that we are actively working to improve.”
She said health care providers are “working on patients that might be able to be discharged or might be able to go to a rehab facility rather than needing the acute care at the hospital.”
Other Facebook Live presenters included Gentrea Hendrickson, Comal County public health emergency preparedness coordinator, City of New Braunfels Fire Chief Patrick O’Connell and Dr. Dorothy Overman, a member of the Comal County COVID-19 physicians advisory committee.
Coming Friday: More from the COVID-19 panel