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McLennan County coalition aims to improve COVID-19 vaccine distribution

WACO, Texas — McLennan County health officials are teaming up with community organizations to improve plans for vaccine distribution.

The coalition, made up of a combination of school leaders, health experts and several nonprofit organizations, aims to spread information about the vaccine to communities across the county and work through ideas for efficient distribution.

“How do we reach people where they live, where it will be most convenient for them to get the vaccine? That’s a lot of the talk we’re doing right now,” said Kelly Craine, a Waco-McLennan County Public Health District representative. “A lot of it will be dependent on when we get more vaccine, though. That’s the key.”

So far, the county has not received enough doses of the vaccine to move forward into Phase 1B, which was announced by Governor Abbott at the end of December.

As part of Phase 1B, Texans over the age of 65 are eligible for the vaccine, according to the state’s distribution plan.

In McLennan County, around 15% of the population is over the age of 65. That equates to more than 35,000 people.

“We can’t take every person in that age category in the county at one time. So, it’s about finding ways to make it happen,” Meals on Wheels Waco Chairwoman Debbie King said.

King is part of the coalition aimed at improving the county’s distribution plan. She says a majority of the clients at Meals on Wheels qualify for the vaccine under Phase 1B, but spreading information about the vaccine and providing transportation to and from a vaccination site could be a problem.

“We have senior centers in the city of Waco and others in the county, and I think that if we reach people where they’re used to going, it will be easier for them to accept it,” King said.

So far the county does not have a firm plan for mass distribution of the vaccine, but they do not need one just yet, given the small number of doses available.

“What we’ve started doing right now, because we have a limited supply, is talk about what we do when we get the vaccine,” Craine said.

The other goal of the coalition is to spread true information on the vaccine to every community in the county.

“As we’ve seen, people get the vaccine here and around the country and people are talking about it,” Craine said. “That has made a huge difference in the number of people that want to get the vaccine.”

The health district is also encouraging anyone who gets the vaccine to share it on social media and with neighbors, saying friends and family are more effective than any messaging they can share.

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