Virus Outbreak US Surge

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2021, file photo, healthcare worker receives a second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot at Beaumont Health in Southfield, Mich. With frustration rising over the slow rollout of the vaccine, state leaders and other politicians are turning up the pressure, improvising and seeking to bend the rules to get shots in arms more quickly. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

As the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out continues its slow progression, residents of Paris and surrounding areas are asking “Where can I get the vaccine?”

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, five locations in The Paris News service area have already received shipments of the Moderna vaccine of various quantities: Paris Regional Medical Center received 600 doses, Kroger Pharmacy and Brookshire’s Pharmacy received allotments of 500 and 100 doses, respectively; and the Paris-Lamar County Health District received 200 doses.

On Wednesday afternoon, all four locations in Lamar County reported they have already gone through all of the supplies of the medication they were allotted, primarily to people who met the government’s guideline for priority administration. All four of the facilities also reported they had no information on exactly when or how large a shipment of the vaccine they would receive.

“As of last week, Paris Regional Medical Center successfully administered the last of our allocation of 600 dosages of the Moderna vaccine,” said Savannah Abbott, PRMC’s director of marketing and communications. “The vaccine was first offered to our team members, and we then began to slowly open availability to our community health care partners. We are currently awaiting information from the state regarding a second shipment, when we might receive that and what the quantity will be. Once we have those details, we will be able to create a plan for administration. It is important to keep in mind that those who recently received a vaccination in the first round will need a booster shot 28 days from the date they were given their first dosage, so that is a big factor in our planning.”

Frontline health care workers were among those prioritized by the government’s health experts to get vaccinated as soon as the medication became available. While PRMC has more than 800 employees, not all of those on the payroll are considered to be essential medical personnel workers, those dealing directly with the growing tide of patients suffering from the virus.

Other prioritized occupations include residents of long-term care facilities and their caretakers.

“We are just as eager to offer vaccines to our community as our community members are to receive it, and we are grateful that there is so much interest; however, to be clear, we are dependent on the state’s allocation of vaccine in order to assist in serving our community. We hope that we will soon see an increase in availability of the vaccine so that we can make more strides toward Covid-19 immunity.”

Gina Prestridge, executive director of the Paris-Lamar County Health District, said after they received a shipment of the vaccine, she made the determination that the 1A administration phase was covered and the district’s workers moved to begin administering doses to those in the 1B category.

“All of our 200 doses are gone, and we do not know when or how much we will get,” she said.

Prestridge stressed that those wishing to receive vaccinations at the health district must sign up for the vaccine and be assigned a slot for the medication.

“We urge those scheduled to receive the vaccine to check back in with us,” she said. “We have no say in how much of the vaccine we will get or when we get it. We hope it will be as fast as possible.”

Phone calls to Brookshire’s Pharmacy in Paris netted a recorded message with information that all 100 doses they had received had been allocated and there was no information available on when more would arrive. The message advised calling back for updates.

“Brookshire’s and Super 1 Foods pharmacies in Texas have received doses of the allocated vaccine for Phase 1A and 1B individuals only at this time,” said Morgan Countryman, communications manager for Brookshire Grocery Co. “We encourage individuals who are in these classifications to schedule an appointment (option 0 when calling call).”

“Per guidance from Texas Department of State Health Services, we will ask for a badge or ID to confirm that each vaccine recipient is the targeted group. The general public is not eligible for the vaccine at this time per state guidelines. We will keep our customers and communities updated as this process continues, and we move through the multi-phase rollout that will allow us to offer the vaccine to the general public in the near future,” read an email from the company. “We are proud to support the goal of keeping our communities safe by offering this vaccine according to the phased-mandated groups. Providing this service will help maximize efforts to stop the spread of the Covid-19.”

Not all medical facilities or pharmacies in the region have received vaccinations, as is the case in Red River County. County Judge L.D. Williamson said Wednesday he was baffled as to why his county has not received any of the state’s Covid-19 vaccine supplies to begin inoculating those who qualify. He was in the process of writing a letter to the Texas Department of State Health Service’s Covid-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel to advocate for vaccine allotments.

“We’re asking (the state) to send us at least 500 doses of (the vaccine),” Williamson said. “We really don’t understand why we were overlooked, and we’re trying to find out why.”

Williamson said it’s particularly baffling because Red River County, though rural, has a “fairly older” population, which he added should put the county on the state’s radar because older people are considered to be at higher risk of severe infection. He said no one at the state health department has been able to answer why Red River County has been left out of the vaccine rollout.

“We’re rural and don’t have a lot of population, but every life that we have here is important to us,” the judge said.

The only agency in the county to receive the vaccine to Williamson’s knowledge was Focused Care in Clarksville, but those vaccines were only for use with the facility’s residents and staff, he said. The facility announced Dec. 29 it was beginning vaccinations provided by PharmScript using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Williamson said he thought ambulance service personnel may have received the vaccine, but other first responders, including the Red River County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments, had not. He added there is one approved vaccine provider in the county, Paris Regional Medical Center Healthcare Group, although Red River Urgent Care applied for approved status weeks ago.

“So, we’ve been having to try and go somewhere else to get shots because we don’t have any local folks that are giving them at the moment,” he said. “I’m just hoping that the panel will give us some vaccine and also approve another provider here to give the shots because one provider would be totally overrun by people trying to get shots.”

In Fannin County, one of the two facilities to be allocated the vaccine, Puckett Family Clinic, got 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Calls to the clinic went unanswered by press time. The state health department’s map also shows no vaccines have been delivered in Delta County.

The Choctaw Nation Health Services has already administered more than 400 vaccinations to its phase 1A-eligible members and have announced plans to move into the next phase. Citizens aged 60 and older, who live in the tribe’s jurisdiction and who have a Certified Degree of Indian Blood card, can now get vaccinated at CNHS locations as more of the vaccine becomes available.

Calls to the local Kroger Pharmacy netted a recorded message that the location is only offering vaccinations to first phase-eligible clients and directed callers to a website. A call to the corporate offices went unanswered.

According to the DSHS, those eligible under the 1B phase guidelines are also eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine, depending on availability and the vaccine provider. Vaccine supply remains limited, but more will be delivered to providers each week. Phase 1B recipients include: People 65 years of age and older; people 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes Covid-19, such as but not limited to cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies; people with solid organ transplantations, those with obesity and severe obesity, pregnant women, people with sickle cell disease and those with Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The DSHS website advises those in Phase 1A or 1B to visit the Texas Covid-19 Vaccine Provider Locations map to see if and where they might be able to get a vaccine.

“Remember, your ability to get a vaccine today or this week will depend on vaccine availability at your provider’s office, clinic or facility,” the website states. “Please call ahead to your provider.”

More information about the vaccine rollout can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cdc.gov.

Klark Byrd is the managing editor of The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6960 or klark.byrd@theparisnews.com.

Managing Editor

Klark Byrd is the managing editor of The Paris News and the editor of Paris Life Magazine. He resides in Paris with his wife, Krystle, and their three children, Charlie, Annalise and Willow.

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