JUST A LITTLE PINCHBy Jason Chlapek
When it comes to combating illness such as viruses, influenza or a pandemic as Covid-19, most health officials would say that it’s better to be proactive than reactive.
On Tuesday, the Polk County Office of Emergency Management teamed up with Dr. Raymond Luna, CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial Hospital, Brookshire Brothers, Angelina County & Cities Health District, Texas Department of State Health Services and various volunteers to administer the first round of Covid vaccines for area residents. The vaccine clinic took place at the Polk County Commerce Center in Livingston, where 200 proactive residents received their first dose of the two-dose vaccine.
“The vaccine was administered to front-line workers, who are in Phase 1A of the Texas Vaccination Plan, and Phase 1B, who are persons over the age of 65 or 16 and older with at least one chronic medical condition,” Polk County OEM Coordinator Courtney Comstock said. “We have been directing people to go to the Brookshire Brothers website to get on the vaccine list. That’s where these persons were pulled from (Tuesday).”
The OEM is implementing its health district’s mass vaccination plan to vaccinate residents in larger numbers. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have already been vaccinated by federal pharmacy partners.
To date, more than 1,600 Polk County residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, with 49 of those being fully vaccinated and other residents in the process to receive the second dose. The OEM has reached out to the state to request larger future vaccine allocations.
“All area COVID-19 provider partners are coordinating together to plan for future vaccination clinics,” Comstock said. “We’ll continue to coordinate with our Covid vaccine partners to schedule future clinics like this and we’ll schedule appointments with residents who have signed up on the Brookshire Brothers website. We have requested that the state expedite the approval of additional providers of the vaccine. The state health department has released instructions on how persons can register to receive the vaccine. If they’re able to travel to a nearby county. We’re asking the community to be aware that other providers will be added to the Polk County list.”
Although the Brookshire Brothers waitlist has been temporarily suspended due to vaccine shortages, partner agencies are working together to find solutions that incorporate those on the current list, and residents are encouraged to check back often as the county anticipates the waitlist will reopen when additional vaccine is allocated.
Luna, a longtime family medicine practitioner, could easily be nicknamed, “Dr. Emergency.” Since coming to Livingston in 1985 to join Dr. Jerry Wood’s practice, the bicycle-riding physician and Livingston city council alderman has worked with multiple emergency situations.
“I volunteered to be a county medical officer a long time ago,” Luna said. “I’ve worked closely with the OEM and the health department during tornadoes, hurricanes, Zika virus and anything that involves emergency or medical aspect to it.”
For additional information on the vaccine, people are encouraged to contact the Angelina County & Cities Health District hotline at 936-630-8500.