Slots available on Caldwell County COVID vaccine pre-registration site
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
When Caldwell County launched their link for residents to pre-register for the COVID vaccine, the expectation was all 6500 slots would fill up within hours or a few days like surrounding counties had.
But as of press time on Feb. 9, only 135 of 2000 1A slots (for frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities) and 2550 of 4500 1B slots (for 65 and over, or 16 and up with certain health conditions) are filled.
Caldwell County and the City of Lockhart pushed the link out on their social media channels, but for the 1B population, which largely includes a generation of Americans who don’t live and die by the internet, the outreach did not appear to reach them.
Caldwell County sent press releases out last week when the link went live. They hoped the Austin area television stations would help get the word out via local news, but none of the stations ran a story.
The lack of response begs the question: how do you give critical information to an older rural population that may not have the same interest or access to the internet that their urban counterparts have?
For the City of Lockhart, the answer was their electric bills. The City has their own electric co-op and sends bills out monthly. In a statement to LPR on Feb. 8 they said they would include a brief message about the signup in next month’s statements.
The City will also include a message about the vaccine pre-registration in their quarterly newsletter in March that reaches 5,500 homes and businesses, according to a city spokesperson. The hope is that will reach the more print-friendly 1B population.
Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said he has reached out to Bluebonnet Electric Co-op, which serves the rural areas of Caldwell County, to see if a message about the vaccine link could be placed in those bills. He said he had not yet received confirmation.
“Bluebonnet will work with Judge Haden and Caldwell County officials to determine the most timely and effective ways we can help them disseminate information about how people in the county can receive the COVID vaccine,” Will Holford, Bluebonnet’s manager of public affairs said in a statement to LPR.
Bluebonnet Electric is a much larger company that serves rural residents inside and outside of Caldwell County. Figuring out how to get that message in Caldwell County utility bills is not as simple as it is for the much smaller Lockhart Electric co-op.
Outside of electric bills, signs at places eligible 1B residents frequent would be the next best thing: The Post Office, grocery stories, and gas stations to name a few. Neither the County nor any city has the authority to force a business to put a sign up about a voluntary program. But nothing can stop a resident from putting a sign in their business or telling an eligible neighbor.
Despite the paltry initial response, the infrastructure is finally in place for Caldwell County to have a more streamlined signup process. And it comes just in time.
Caldwell County was only initially allocated a few hundred doses each week, if at all. But this week the county was allocated 700 doses at three provider locations.
“I think because we applied so much pressure, we are seeing a few hundred more vaccines per week, which we will certainly take,” Judge Haden said in an interview with LPR.
He said the county has not heard back regarding its application to be a vaccine hub but was told in could be next week. Being a hub would give the state the ability to allocate more doses to Caldwell County each week.
With only two approved vaccines, supply is still very limited. But that could change drastically if the single-dose Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine receives emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Once vaccine supply increases, larger allocations should follow. The centralized signup link will be used by multiple providers to provide a more streamlined process for residents.
“The county, and at least three or four of our providers are finally all on the same page and working together to make sure we get people vaccinated,” Haden said.
To pre-register for the COVID vaccine visit www.co.caldwell.tx.us and click on the box that says “sign up!”