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Abilene health district: Make sure to answer call for COVID-19 vaccine appointment



ABILENE, TX – She acknowledged the public’s concern about spam callers trying to solicit personal information.

“We’re going to ask you if this is you — we know your name — and offer you an appointment. So there should not be any exchange of any other personal information,” Lerma said.

If the caller requests personal or banking information, hang up, she said.

How many doses coming to Abilene?

Texas received 332,750 vaccine doses from the federal government this week, Lerma said. The state then uses a formula based on population to distribute the vaccines to providers throughout Texas.

The health district this week received 1,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to administer Friday as a first dose for recipients, Lerma said.

Each vial originally was labeled for five doses, but new directions indicate that a sixth dose can be drawn from a vial, increasing the number of doses available to almost 1,400, she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, health district staff had made 700-plus calls and set about 300 appointments, Lerma said.

Who is being vaccinated?

Only people who meet state-defined eligibility requirements called Phase 1A and 1B can be added to the waiting list. They are:

1A: Healthcare providers, first responders, school nurses and long-term care facility staff and residents.

B: People who are 65 years and older or 18 years and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19, such as cancer, some respiratory illnesses and diabetes.

Because Abilene is a state-designated vaccination hub, people outside Taylor County who are in 1A or 1B groups also can register at the city website to be added to the waiting list.

And, relatives and friends of people who do not have Internet access can help them register online, Lerma said, including out-of-state children.

The waiting list has about 17,000 names, Lerma said, which is about 5,000 more than reported last week.

Lerma said she has received complaints that people who look young and healthy are receiving the vaccine, seemingly ahead of older people at greater risk for the worst ill-effects of COVID-19.

The health district is continuing to vaccinate healthcare workers, who may be younger, and some people in the 1B category can appear otherwise healthy while having a chronic condition, she said.

“We are doing our due diligence to make sure that we are vaccinating people that fall within the 1A and 1B categories,” Lerma said.

Lessons learned from first clinic

Since the first mass vaccination clinic with 1,200 doses administered during two days, the Health District staff has tweaked the operation, Lerma said.

“I think that we were really pleased with the way that it went. Our goal was to get people in and out of there fairly quickly, without long wait times. And I think that we were successful in accomplishing that,” Lerma said. “There were a few minor snafus that I think that we’re going to adjust.”

In addition, the number of vaccination bays has increased from 20 to 30, Lerma said.

Although some people did not show up for their appointment at the last clinic, the Health District was able to administer all the dosages by the end of the day by calling people to show up for the clinic.

The state is reporting that all the COVID-19 vaccine providers in Taylor County have received a total of 13,975 dosages, with the most going to Hendrick Health, Lerma said.

Abilene officials, including Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams and Hendrick Health administrators, are urging the state to release more dosages to Abilene, Lerma said, because health care services are provided to 400,000 people in a 24-county region.

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