“I pray that someone’s not doing that to my parents over in Lee County. It’s important to be respectful and wait your turn,” County Judge Bill Gravell said.
WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas — As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed across the Lone Star State, numerous vaccinating entities have said the demand of people signing up far outpaces the doses coming in.
Officials from multiple local municipalities have stressed that there isn’t enough vaccine to meet the demand, including in Williamson County. As of Feb. 8, Williamson County has vaccinated more than 52,000 people, according to County Judge Bill Gravell. Gravell also said that more than 100,000 people have signed up for the county’s waitlist.
According to State guidelines as of Feb. 8, the only groups eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are 1A and 1B, which include the following people:
- People 65 years old and older
- People 16 years old and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, including but not limited to:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
- Solid organ transplantation
- Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
However, with such high demand, the KVUE Defenders found there has been a faction of people taking advantage of the vaccine rollout with a loophole. The investigation revealed that “if a provider doesn’t have access to the person’s medical history, the person can self-disclose their qualifying medical condition. They do not need to provide documents to prove that they qualify,” according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Dr. Nathaniel Greenwood, the chief medical director for Family Hospital Systems, said in a Feb. 8 virtual press conference that Williamson County is implementing policies that would “be in place before the end of the day” in regards to stopping what was described as “line jumpers.”
After being asked about the possibility of people essentially skipping 1A and 1B eligible people in the line, Gravell voiced his disdain for that behavior.
“It is immoral and it is unethical to step in front of a senior adult to get a shot. Now, if you qualify in the 1A, then you should sign up. But if you don’t, it’s just wrong,” Gravell said in the virtual meeting. “Everyone needs to realize that if you’re choosing to step in front [of] people, you’re stepping in front of your own grandma and grandpa. And you know what? I pray that someone’s not doing that to my parents over in Lee County. It’s important to be respectful and wait your turn.”
Greenwood said anyone with an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine on the Williamson County waitlist will be sent information by email. He said the policy for assigning appointments will be followed strictly.
“Just so you’re aware, from our standpoint, the Texas DSHS has said you can’t ask people to prove what status they are. You can simply ask, ‘Are you a 1A or 1B patient?’ And if they say, yes, we’re done,” Greenwood said. “If they say no, we can only ask them to leave and just let them know that, ‘Hey, this is for people who are 1A and 1B.’ So, in response to what we’ve been told to do with DSHS that, again, like [a] church group, it’s just important that we are honest and realize that there’s a plan in place to get everybody vaccinated. But we just need to do it the right way, in the right time frame and just believe in the system.”
Gravell said that there are 210,000 Williamson County residents that meet 1A and 1B requirements. He and Greenwood said that at the county’s current rate of receiving 8,000 to 10,000 doses per week, it would take until June to get the 1A and 1B population fully vaccinated with both doses.
“So, this is a long slog, a long haul and it’s going to be complicated. We’ve all got to work together,” Gravell said.
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