By Karen Brooks Harper, The Texas Tribune
"Texans can now schedule free COVID-19 vaccine clinics for groups of 5 or more" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Poker nights, yoga classes in the park, birthday parties and family reunions: All of them can become free COVID-19 vaccine clinics under Texas’ mobile vaccination program that expanded on Tuesday — part of an effort to increase vaccine rates as supply increases and demand across the nation slips.
Groups of at least five people can schedule a mobile clinic to come to a house, a park, a place of business, an apartment — just about anywhere they want, and on evenings or weekends if necessary — by calling the state’s vaccine hotline, said Seth Christensen, spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which, along with the Texas Military Department, oversees the four-month-old State Mobile Vaccination Program.
“This allows us to get a little deeper down into the community,” Christensen said. “We have the teams, we have the assets, and we have the vaccines available to reach more Texans and expand our reach.”
More than 12 million Texans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 10 million — about 42% of the eligible population ages 12 and up — are fully vaccinated.
The task of vaccinating the majority of the state’s 29 million residents, a goal still potentially months from being realized, has been fraught with high rates of hesitancy, geographical challenges with Texans living in very remote areas, and other issues.
In Texas and nationwide, a slowdown in demand has spawned a host of ideas on how to reach those who still haven’t been vaccinated.
When the mobile vaccination program began in late January, it focused on hard-to-reach communities, rural Texans, homebound residents and senior citizens, vaccinating many of them in their own homes and partnering with groups to administer the shot to those priority populations, Christensen said. The mobile teams have administered more than half a million doses and supported local cities and other partners in the administration of another 400,000 doses, he said.
On May 6, as supply of the vaccine increased and vaccination rates among the state’s most vulnerable were hitting high numbers, state officials went public with the mobile program, setting up the Mobile Vaccination Team Call Center to take requests through the state hotline from businesses and other organizations to schedule on-site clinics for groups of at least 10.
Since then, the call center has received requests to schedule more than 160 mobile events to administer doses to more than 12,000 Texans, Christensen said.
The state has about 1,500 Texas National Guard personnel dedicated solely to the mobile vaccination effort, Christensen said, with a network of local fire departments and medical units as backup, he said.
In announcing the expansion of the program this week, Gov. Greg Abbott encouraged “groups of Texans who wish to get vaccinated as a business, family unit, friend group, or more” to schedule an event and help defeat the pandemic.
“By working together to get more shots in arms, we will continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the state,” he said.
Texans can schedule a clinic for groups of five or more by calling 844-90-TEXAS and selecting option 3. Texans who can’t leave their homes or gather in groups can call that number and select option 1 to have a vaccine team visit their home.
Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/26/texas-mobile-covid-19-vaccines/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.