LLANO, Texas - While Texas counties with larger populations continue to receive thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines as part of a mass vaccination effort, some smaller counties have been unable to get enough for even their highest priority groups.
"We have a huge population of elderly folks here. It's one of the highest percentages of elderly in the State of Texas. So trying to go to them instead of having them come to us would be beneficial," said Dr. Jack Franklin, local health authority for Llano County.
Part of the country charm in Llano County has led to difficulty in getting COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
"Most of the vaccines in the state went to larger hospital districts, larger chains of HEB’s, larger food chains, Walgreens, that sort of thing. In Llano County, unfortunately, we don't have any of those chains," Franklin said.
The county has only been given 100 doses of the vaccine so far, all of them to Hill Country Direct Care in week four. They put together a clinic at a local church and ran out almost immediately.
"I think we did 30 people in the morning and then we took the rest of the vaccines to the local assisted living facilities here in town, because that's really been the people that have been hit the hardest with the pandemic," said Franklin.
Requests for more doses have gone unanswered. "We are sort of behind the eight ball on the vaccine. Definitely," Franklin said.
More than 4,000 people are currently on the county's vaccine sign up sheet, 165 of them in the 1A category, the highest priority vaccination group. That includes health care workers, first responders, and those in long-term care facilities. Llano County leaders have no other option but to send them elsewhere.
"If you're 1A and still haven't been vaccinated, yeah, I would definitely suggest trying to find a place to go get vaccinated. I know Fredericksburg, Gillespie County, just next door to us, has a vaccine hub and we're trying to get folks there, but they're out of vaccines almost as rapidly as they get them,"
COVID-19 cases in Llano seem to have leveled off in the past week following a winter surge. However, now even those who have recovered aren't considered safe. "We're actually suddenly starting to see our first cases of people that have had COVID twice. So, it's worrisome," said Franklin.
So far Llano County leaders believe the state intends to provide 100 second doses to those who received their first dose there, but that is also another concern there, whether they will have those second doses available in the coming weeks.
Dr. Franklin said a majority of case clusters seem to have come from gatherings where people were not wearing masks, so he is encouraging people to wear a face-covering whenever possible.