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‘Not Going To Turn Anybody Away’: Amarillo Vaccine Rollout Reaches Beyond Panhandle

a nurse wearing purple gloves gives a woman the covid-19 vaccine
Gabriel C. Pérez

From Texas Standard:

For some Texans, getting a COVID-19 vaccine has been a challenge. From long lines to confusing online registration, it can be a complicated, time-consuming endeavor.

But not in Amarillo – at least according to Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner. Parts of Amarillo are located in Potter County.

Tanner says the rollout in her area has been relatively smooth. And people from across the Panhandle and even out of state are coming to Amarillo for shots.

Tanner says the county has distributed over 41,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses so far.

She attributes the smooth rollout, in part, to the large Amarillo civic center vaccination site where those waiting in line can do so safely, practicing social distancing. And unlike many other cities and counties, Potter County doesn’t have an online registration system; you just show up.

All of this is likely made easier in a county the size of Potter, which is about 117,000 people. But Tanner says the county’s vaccination site serves people from several counties.

“We’re the hub of the Panhandle,” she said.

Amarillo has become such a reliable hub, she says, that people are coming from Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico to get shots. Tanner isn’t worried that will somehow compromise vaccinations for locals. She says her vaccine site would never deny someone a vaccine who’s eligible, no matter where they’re coming from.

“I’m not concerned about it because that’s the way we roll in the Texas Panhandle; we’re not going to turn anybody away,” she said.

The civic center site has run out of doses and shut down early a couple times, she says, but the state delivered more doses overnight. Tanner has faith that state health services will get her county the doses it needs quickly; the agency hasn't let her down so far.

“I have contacted my city manager and the deputy city manager, and I asked them point blank, ‘What is it that you’re doing that gets us the vaccines so quickly?’ and they simply said, ‘We are making a phone call, we ask for so many, they bring them the next day in a refrigerated truck,'” she said.

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Kristen Cabrera is a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where she saw snow for the first time and walked a mile through a blizzard. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, she graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American (now UTRGV) and is a former KUT News intern. She has been working as a freelance audio producer, writer and podcaster. Email her:
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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