Caldwell County adds resources for vaccine rollout
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
The Caldwell County Commissioner’s Court voted on two measures on March 9 that will increase their resources to aid the COVID vaccine rollout.
The Court voted to enter into a MOU with Curative to handle the Caldwell County vaccination program. The company will handle the registration, ensuring all data is entered into the nationwide computer system, and most importantly, vaccine and screening personnel.
The County will only be responsible for providing a location. Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management Chief Hector Rangel told the Commissioners that sites have already been selected in both Lockhart and Luling and are awaiting final approval.
Curative comes with a healthy track record of providing the County with resources during the pandemic. The company has been working in the County for eight months providing the personnel, supplies, and technology needed to provide free COVID testing. The service has not cost the County anything and the vaccine service will also have no cost to the County.
The Commissioners also voted to approve a Personal Services Agreement (PSA) for Devante Coe for Information Technology services. Coe has been volunteering in the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management during the pandemic, providing much-needed technical support, particularly during the vaccine rollout.
“I can’t even tell you how cumbersome and complicated this effort has been,” Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said in Court. “It’s impossible for Hank [Alex] and Hector [Rangel] to do that, and all the other duties they have to do.”
Without a dedicated public health department Caldwell County has had to rely on the two-man Office of Emergency Management to manage every aspect of the pandemic—all while dealing with emergencies like fire, natural disasters, or criminal emergencies like shootings, or chemical agents.
The additional resources put the County in a better position to get more vaccines, but the number of vaccines allocated each week is still determined by a State-controlled panel. The week of March 8 Caldwell County was allocated 500 doses, an increase from previous weeks. But only 2,074 residents have been fully vaccinated, according to DSHS data.
The FDA gave Emergency Use Authorization to Johnson and Johnson for a single-shot vaccine on Feb. 27. The increase in total vaccines available should help bring more supply to everyone, including Caldwell County.
The County hopes that by putting itself in a good position with trained staff and personnel, it will continue to see increased shipments week over week.
The vaccine rollout all across Texas has been slow, inefficient, and has frustrated residents. Some counties are given thousands of vaccines and appear to have a more streamlined process. Other counties have only been allocated a few hundred, leaving residents scurrying to neighboring counties to receive their shot.
A reader recently emailed LPR asking why Caldwell County couldn’t be like nearby Bell County, which the reader described as though it was a gold-standard to vaccine distribution. Based on the reader’s experience with both counties, it’s a valid question.
From a process perspective it seems easy to compare. The end goal is to get the shot into the arm of as many people as possible. But as with everything in life, the amount of resources you can throw at a problem will often determine your outcome and how easy it is to get there.
Bell County has a population of 363,924 compared to Caldwell’s 43,664. That’s worth noting because more people mean more tax revenue, and more tax revenue means more resources for residents.
The 2020-2021 adopted budget for Caldwell County is $35M. Bell County’s was $141M. With four times the revenue, Bell County is able to hire four times the amount of county employees, including those that can dedicate themselves to a health crisis.
Bell County is also blessed to have a public health authority. Instead of relying on a two-man Office of Emergency Management to handle every problem the pandemic has brought, Bell County can rely on a full-staffed office dedicated to public health.
Chief Rangel has done an amazing job serving Caldwell County during the pandemic and doing it out of an office that was never intended—or staffed—to deal with a year-long public health crisis of this magnitude.
So how does Caldwell compare to Bell County getting shots in arms? Caldwell County has fully vaccinated 4.74 percent and Bell County is at 5.46 percent, according to DSHS data.