Collin County has surpassed state and national averages for COVID-19 vaccination rates, according to recent data, but now the county is looking to reach residents in a new way.
Collin County Health Care Services has launched a mobile COVID-19 vaccination team that, by appointment, will bring COVID-19 vaccines to people where they are. The team’s effort will focus on traveling to homebound individuals and long-term care facilities, businesses that would like to get their employees vaccinated as well as organizations and clubs, according to the county website. The team will also be available for events.
“It was something that was on our wish list, but we were just waiting for the proper funding to be able to make sure we could get it to happen,” said Darrell Willis, public information officer with Collin County Health Care Services.
Recent grant funding awarded to the department allowed Collin County Health Care Services to hire additional staff for the effort. Willis said the mobile team is under the COVID-19 Vaccine Capacity Project 1 grant, which amounted to $1,995,432. Willis said that in addition to providing for the salary for the mobile vaccine team, the funding includes several additional COVID-19 vaccine-related staff members for other programs in the health department as well as other supplies and equipment to expand its COVID-19 vaccine operations. The grant was awarded to the Texas Department of State Health Services from the federal government, Willis said, and the DSHS then made a sub-award to Collin County.
Willis said the team’s effort is twofold: one goal is to go out into the community to provide vaccines, but there is also a goal to help increase the number of vaccine providers in Collin County.
“Signing up to become a vaccine provider can be kind of an arduous task,” Willis said. “There are practices out there that they're busy seeing patients, they don't necessarily have the time to fill out a 50-page document to try and sign up to be able to administer a vaccine.”
So, Willis said, the county’s support staff will offer to come to those places and get the sign-up process going.
“And then once those facilities are able to be verified through the state to be a vaccine provider, we are also offering a place to store the vaccine, because that's also kind of an issue for a lot of places,” Willis said.
On July 26, Taylor Burton, public health emergency preparedness coordinator, told the Collin County Commissioners Court that the county had been acting as a vaccine distribution hub for the past several months. The county acted as a centralized distribution location early on for local hubs, Burton said, and had conducted over 100 vaccine transfers during that time.
Now that those hub locations have closed down, Burton said, the county has continued in that role for private health care providers in Collin County. In the past two to three months, the county has conducted over 70 vaccine transfers to private doctor’s offices, she said.
As of July 20, Collin County has 336 COVID-19 vaccine providers registered through the DSHS. That number does not include partners that are solely in the federal vaccine program, including CVS pharmacies or Costco pharmacies, Burton said.
Willis said the county’s mobile vaccination team had a trial run for the mobile clinic on July 22 that allowed 10 people to get vaccinated. The team was slated to vaccinate 20 homebound patients on Tuesday, Willis said.
As of July 20, about 61% of Collin County’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated, and 81% of the county’s 65 and older population had been fully vaccinated. Burton told commissioners that those numbers put the county well above state and national averages.
“It also puts us substantially above our counterparts in Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties,” she added. “We are in the very highest group of vaccinated counties in the state of Texas, currently.”
Willis said it’s difficult to predict how the new mobile clinic will impact the county’s vaccination numbers.
“We're clearly hoping to have a positive impact and get those numbers up, but only time will tell,” Willis said. “This is really the first week of the rollout. Things are going smoothly, but we're optimistic.”
Residents can set up an appointment with the county’s mobile team by emailing email@example.com or by calling 214-491-4821. The county is also providing vaccines through the Collin county Health Care Services Immunization Department.