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COVID-19

Travis County Vaccinated More Than 600 People In Southeast Austin This Weekend

vaccine distribution.jpg
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
City and county agencies administered vaccines during a drive-thru event in Southeast Travis County on Saturday.

Local officials held a mass COVID-19 vaccination event in Southeast Travis County this weekend in an effort to address growing concerns that the East Side of Austin doesn’t have enough vaccine providers.

Various city and county agencies administered vaccines via drive-thru to more than 630 people on Saturday. Travis County Judge Andy Brown, who organized the event, set up the mass vaccination near the airport with vaccines that were given to the county by Ascension Seton.

“Southeast Travis County is an area traditionally underserved by health care,” he said. “[It’s] one step in getting people vaccinated.”

The mass vaccination was by appointment only and mostly served people over 65 who work for school districts in Del Valle, Manor and Pflugerville, as well as Capital Metro.

Brown said he also worked with officials at CommUnityCare to identify people over 65 who live in underserved areas of the county.

The event followed concerns raised by advocates in the Austin area that communities of color – who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – have fewer vaccine providers than wealthier white communities on the west side of I-35.

Texas health officials released an initial list of COVID-19 vaccine providers a few weeks ago. That list included many chain stores as part of a state and federal strategy aimed at getting the vaccine distributed as quickly as possible.

But as advocates and local officials pointed out, many of these chain stores simply don’t exist in communities in East Austin.

Brown said he wanted to be sure local government began to step in and fill those gaps.

“The fact is, this part of town frankly does not have as many H-E-B’s, pharmacies, has a higher uninsured rate, has a much a higher Latinx and African-American population in the county as a whole,” he said. “We wanted to focus on this area first to start getting vaccines out to this population.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who attended this weekend’s event, said the city has been lobbying the state to allow local governments more control over how the vaccine is distributed.

“I believe … that it goes out much more quickly and goes out the people who most need it,” he said.

Adler said the city’s existing health infrastructure could do a good job of making sure there is an equitable distribution of the vaccine.

Austin Public Health was notified by state health officials on Friday that it would receive 12,000 doses of the vaccine this week.

“I think at the end of this week we will have demonstrated to the state that by giving it to public health departments that we can get the [vaccine] out more quickly and in a more equitable manner,” Adler said.

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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