Columns for The Lufkin News

Vaccine Website Up and Running

Posted Mar 13, 2021 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

As of Monday, March 8, 2021, the new online COVID vaccine registration portal is up and running at www.etxcovidvaccine.com. A result of the efforts of a volunteer group known as the Deep East Texas Partnership working with the Angelina County & Cities Health District, the website contains a simple to use bright red link to sign up for the vaccine as well as links to CDC and vaccine information and a link for those interested in volunteering to help with the vaccination effort.

The website details who is eligible to be vaccinated – currently Phase 1a (front line healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities), and Phase 1b (people 65 yrs. and older and those 18 yrs. and older who have chronic illness; education and child care personnel; employees, teachers and staff in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools; Head Start and Early Head Start programs; and licensed childcare providers). In the first couple of days that the website was live, more than 2,500 people signed up to get vaccinated. For those who cannot register online, they can still call the health district’s Coronavirus Call Center at (936) 630-8500, Monday - Friday from 8AM - 4PM.

This website and registration process is the result of many volunteers and organizations in the community coming together to implement what arguably should have been set up earlier. This paper justifiably was concerned about the missteps in preplanning for and coordination and implementation of a hub vaccination effort for Deep East Texas.[1] Recently, however, they were unduly critical[2] of what has essentially been a community volunteer effort to make up for lost ground and get a vaccine registration website up and running. I am grateful for the volunteer partnership that quickly raised a quarter million dollars and organized an army of volunteers to increase our vaccination rates. Sincere thanks are due to the TLL Temple Foundation, Angelina College, the Civic Center staff, and the many volunteers who have gone above and beyond to work with the health district, demonstrating what a community can do when it comes together.

So how are we doing with the vaccination effort locally?

As of March 9, 2021, 18.4% of the total US population has received at least one shot (23.9% of those age 18 and older).[3] Texas is several percentage points behind the national rate at around 15.2% of the total population.[4] In Angelina County, 12,484 people 16 years and older have received at least one dose (14.4% of total county population, or 18.6% of the eligible adult population).[5] Yes, we are a little behind. The convention center hub is vaccinating 1,200-1,500 people a week. They have capacity to increase that number. With local, regional, and state leadership pressing our case, the hope is that a greater number of vaccine doses will be allocated to our Deep East Texas hub soon. After all, Hardin and Orange counties apparently are allocated so many doses that they have opened their COVID-19 vaccine appointments to anyone.[6]

I have been heartened to read that more and more Americans are willing to get vaccinated. A recent Pew Research survey shows that 69% of the public intends to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or already has, up from 60% in November.[7] This is incredibly encouraging news. About three-quarters agree that a large majority of Americans getting a vaccine for COVID-19 (i.e., achieving herd immunity) would help the US economy. We must keep heading that direction! Just this week, the CDC issued new guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated, including relaxed restrictions on indoor gatherings.[8] There is a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel!

Regrettably, as David French points out in The Dispatch, “vaccine hesitancy breaks down sharply along partisan and religious lines, and that hesitancy is so profound in white Evangelical communities that it could disrupt the quest for herd immunity.”[9] He notes that Evangelical vaccine hesitancy is both an information problem and a spiritual problem, with White evangelicals being the least likely to say they should consider the health effects on their community when making a decision to be vaccinated. As I have urged many times before, loving our neighbor is the heart of the gospel. For true believers, that love requires – no, demands – action. Two obvious and public actions to love others are mask wearing and getting vaccinated. I have been encouraged by those I know in the faith community who, with few exceptions, are planning to get (or have already gotten) vaccinated. In my estimation, Lufkin has long demonstrated that it is a living, loving community, far more willing to help others than most communities. Let’s hope our final vaccination numbers prove me right!

The www.etxcovidvaccine.com website will be an ongoing source of regularly updated information about available vaccines, vaccination locations, and the overall eligibility and registration process. Use the website; it is the easiest, most efficient way to get registered. But if you or your loved one do not have internet access, call (936) 630-8500. Either way, get vaccinated as soon as you are able. Together, we will we protect our community.

[1] https://lufkindailynews.com/coronavirus/article_cce98c6b-7e25-5260-8435-869421016ab6.html

[2] https://lufkindailynews.com/coronavirus/article_ede27b9b-e177-5f62-a1e7-518771c7c3f4.html

[3] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/covid-19-vaccine-doses.html

[5] https://tabexternal.dshs.texas.gov/t/THD/views/COVID-19VaccineinTexasDashboard/Summary?:origin=card_share_link&:embed=y&:isGuestRedirectFromVizportal=y

[6] https://www.khou.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/vaccine/hardin-orange-counties-covid-19-vaccine-appointments-all/285-faaeb163-e79b-42e3-b8a1-ba6c83bb31f0

[7] https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/03/05/growing-share-of-americans-say-they-plan-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine--or-already-have/

[8] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

[9] https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/the-spiritual-problem-at-the-heart

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