7 updates on COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Montgomery County

Commissioners discussed vaccine distribution at a regular court session Jan. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Commissioners discussed vaccine distribution at a regular court session Jan. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Commissioners discussed vaccine distribution at a regular court session Jan. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Montgomery County commissioners discussed updates to the county’s vaccine distribution process Jan. 26. Here are seven key takeaways.

1. New hub site will likely move to Woodforest Bank Stadium

The new vaccination site at CHI St. Luke's Health The Woodlands Hospital is expected to open Jan. 27. However, Jason Millsaps, executive director of the Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the vaccination site may move to the Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah if more vaccines arrive.

“Rumor is they’ll have substantial amount next week, which may cause us to move St. Luke’s off their campus sooner than we anticipated,” he said. “[The stadium is] going to be a much better location for that type of volume.”

The hospital received a 1,950-dose allocation of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 23 and will begin administering vaccines this week on an invitation-only basis, according to the hospital's website.


2. Two more hub sites awaiting doses before opening

Magnolia Pharmacy, located at 18230 FM 1488 in Magnolia, will operate as the county’s eastern hub site, and a Kroger will serve as the county’s western hub, Millsaps said. Although officials did not specify which Kroger, a Kroger located at 20168 Eva St., Montgomery, has been designated a provider by the state, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Both locations are awaiting doses, Millsaps said.

3. Montgomery County may operate as a regional hub

Because Montgomery County has demonstrated it can operate a mass vaccination site, the state may provide it with significantly more doses, which would allow the county to better serve neighboring counties such as Waller and Grimes, Millsaps said. These counties are more rural and do not have the same capacity to operate hub sites to the extent more urban counties do.

“The state was on-site [Jan. 20], and they were very impressed with the operations,” he said. “They were indicating to us they were going to try to up our allocation so we could accommodate more and become more of a regional hub.”

Texas residents may receive a shot anywhere in the state of Texas, and Montgomery County cannot refuse vaccines to anyone who lives outside the county.

Millsaps said the state is covering the cost of vaccines, so the county is using Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds to pay for logistic-related expenses.

4. Call center for vaccine appointments in the works

The office of homeland security and emergency management is working on a call center to schedule vaccinations for individuals who do not have access to the internet or are unable to promptly fill out a registration. Millsaps said this could allow for a least “a couple dozen” signed up each day.

5. County moving towards centralized process

The state is providing various amounts of doses to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other provides across the state and designating some as hub sites. However, county officials said this model—which was chosen by the state—is creating confusion.

“If it was up to [us], it would have been public health districts and major hospitals only receiving [doses], all the little pharmacies and all the little doctors’ offices would be next to receive,” Millsaps said. “Let us get the bulk vaccines out first and not make it where one guy is getting 100, the other guy is getting 200, and you’re all scrambling for those 300 doses.”

Individuals may also register for an appointment or be put on a waitlist with any vaccine provider. Montgomery County officials said they will better centralize this process by eventually consolidating everyone on a waitlist for all the different providers into one master waitlist to eliminate any duplicates.

6. First come, first serve model may be implemented once supply increases

Once Montgomery County is able to distribute between 7,000-10,000 doses per week, Millsaps said he is hopeful the county will be able to do away with its registration process and open up the sites to a first-come, first-served basis to anyone who fits the state’s criteria.

The registration process is needed due to the current limited supply.

“With limited amount of vaccines on hand, the worst thing that can happen is we open a vial at the end of the day to give a shot to one person, and there’s nine or 10 more doses in that vial, and there’s nobody on-site to receive them,” Millsaps said.

Once the dose is in the syringe, it can only last five hours, he explained, adding county officials have had to scramble to find persons to vaccinate at the end of some days to use the last remaining vials.

“So far in the county, knock on wood, we have not wasted a single dose,” he said. “The registration process, as painful as that has been, ... [has prevented waste].”

7. Demand is huge

Last week, 1,900 reservations for vaccines from the Lone Star Family Health Center filled up in 18 minutes, Millsaps said.

As of Jan. 25, 18,900 Montgomery County residents have been vaccinated, and he estimated there are about 10,000 on the waitlist.

Magnolia Pharmacy, for example, had roughly 7,000 on its waitlist as of Jan. 22, he said.
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.


MOST RECENT

The Lone Star College System board of trustees held a regular meeting March 4 at which mask protocols were discussed. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College System announces health protocols following mask mandate update

LSCS Chancellor Stephen Head said he anticipates keeping coronavirus safety protocols in effect through the end of the year.

For a third consecutive semester, Texas public school districts will not be penalized financially due to declining enrollment and attendance as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, due to an extension of the hold-harmless guarantee, state leaders announced March 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas leaders ensure financial stability for public school districts through spring semester with hold-harmless extension

The guarantee also ensures that Texas school systems can retain their teachers for the 2020-21 school year for whom they originally budgeted.

The state's electric grid and the entities that oversee it are under scrutiny following the winter storm in February. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Energy reform dominates conversations, state vows to increase internet access: 3 takeaways from Montgomery County Day at the Capitol

The Conroe Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce hosted a Montgomery County Day at the Capitol on March 2 at the Lone Star Convention Center in Conroe.

ManBasics barbershop and speakeasy opened at FM 1488, Ste. 106, Conroe, in November last year. (Courtesy ManBasics)
ManBasics barbershop now offering grooming services and full bar in Conroe

In addition to operating as a barbershop, the business sells personal care products and offers a full bar.

This month, the Greater Houston area will mark the anniversaries of its first confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the first deaths attributed to the pandemic. (Courtesy Pexels)
Share your story: Have you lost anyone to COVID-19?

This month, the Greater Houston area will mark the anniversaries of its first confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the first deaths attributed to the pandemic.

The Pavilion is looking to bring live shows back this summer. (Courtesy The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion)
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion announces 2021 season update

The Pavilion is looking at bringing live shows back this summer.

People wait in line to receive a vaccine at an Austin Public Health vaccination site. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas offers COVID-19 vaccinations to school, child care workers

Educators, school staff and child care professionals are qualified to receive coronavirus vaccines effective immediately.

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that Texas' statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance March 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Updated Texas Education Agency guidance allows individual school boards to determine mask policies

"Under this updated guidance, a public school system's current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the release reads.

H-E-B will continue to require employees to wear face masks until further notice. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require employees, ask customers to be masked despite upcoming expiration of governor's mandate

H-E-B officials announced their employees and vendors would still be required to be masked while on the job, and customers would be encouraged to wear masks while in stores.

A mandate will remain in effect for the time being requiring all riders to weak masks on vehicles run by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, officials announced March 3.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
Mask mandate to remain in effect for all METRO vehicles, properties

The announcement comes one day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his mask order for the state.

The statewide mask mandate will end March 10. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, local officials weigh in on end of state mask mandate

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough thanked the governor for planning to lift state mandates March 10.