Travis County and 3 Central Texas neighbors to pilot mass vaccination site

Photo of Judge Brown in a mask and orange vest with megaphone
Travis County Judge Andy Brown helped direct a drive-thru vaccination event Feb. 6. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County Judge Andy Brown helped direct a drive-thru vaccination event Feb. 6. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis, Caldwell, Hays and Bastrop counties will collaborate to pilot a mass vaccination site at the Circuit of The Americas this weekend, Travis County Judge Andy Brown said at a Feb. 23 Commissioners Court meeting. According to Brown, the Texas Department of State Health Services has allocated 3,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the drive-thru distribution site where Brown and his fellow judges hope to eventually see 50,000 doses distributed each week.

A specific time and date for the vaccination event has not yet been announced.

“This effort will show that if we can receive the number [of] vaccines we need, together we can help make sure anyone who wants a vaccine can easily access it,” Brown said in a news release.

The four counties are partnering with CommUnityCare and Ascension Seton to administer the vaccines, which were officially allocated to CommUnityCare, according to Travis County Executive Chuck Brotherton. The collaboration is part of a larger effort to fully vaccinate 800,000 Central Texans by July 1, a goal which the partners say will require around 50,000 vaccinations each week.

The drive-thru model planned for the site was tested at Travis County vaccination events Jan. 9 and Feb. 6. More than 600 people received their first doses of the vaccine on both occasions. In a joint letter to executives at DSHS and the Texas Division of Emergency Management requesting doses, county judges said this drive-thru method, which moved patients through the line in 19 minutes, was an efficient model that could be scaled up.


“Our model achieves the goal of getting shots in arms as soon as possible, and addresses some of the underlying equity challenges that have been present in vaccine distribution,” the letter said.

COTA is an ideal location to pilot a large-scale vaccination campaign, Brown said, because of its proximity to all four counties involved. The pilot event this weekend would especially serve school district employees from Travis, Caldwell, Hays and Bastrop counties that fall into Phase 1B of coronavirus vaccine distribution, including people over the age of 65 and those with certain high-risk health conditions. Appointments will be required; Brotherton said the counties would ask school districts to recommend qualified candidates.

As Travis County and its neighbors plan for this weekend’s COTA event, Austin Public Health is likewise in the process of scaling up operations to distribute a backlog of vaccines after shipments were delayed and existing appointments were canceled starting Feb. 13 due to severe weather conditions. As of Feb. 23, APH—currently Travis County’s largest provider of coronavirus vaccines—said its operations were “restored to full capacity,” and APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said 37,000 doses would be distributed this week.

While APH is prioritizing second dose appointments this week, the organization said new first dose appointments would be posted the evening of Feb. 23. A new queuing system is also in place for APH’s online portal, letting registrants know their estimated place in line and wait time before an appointment will become available, APH said in a tweet.

While the drive-thru vaccination event at COTA this weekend is not available to the general public, people seeking vaccines can preregister through APH’s portal, or visit the new regional landing page for vaccines at www.centraltxvaccs.org. While the website was coordinated by the city of Austin and Travis County, links to vaccine providers through 10 Central Texas counties are provided on the site.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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