Texas Health Resources reached an underserved community in southeast Fort Worth Friday to get COVID-19 vaccines to patients in the Phase 1B category: individuals 65 years of age and older or those with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
"We made a commitment to go to their community, go to where they live, work, play, pray and live and make the vaccine available to them there," said Dr. Catherine Oliveros, the vice president of community health improvement at Texas Health.
The hospital system is working with its long-time partner North Texas Area Community Health Centers to vaccinate 125 patients. The shots were distributed by invitation and appointment only at the Southeast Community Health Center on Mitchell Boulevard, just south of Highway 287.
Susan Willis, compliance officer for NTACHC, said their three clinics in Tarrant County provide primary care to everyone, but especially to those who are uninsured or cannot afford medical care.
"We were really happy to be able to partner with THR because they had vaccines and we had patients," Willis said. "The people coming out today are mostly people who are patients of any of our three clinics we identified at high risk."
Solange Shey accompanied her mother Linda who received her shot Friday.
"She was skeptical, like 'No, I don’t want to get it.' I said 'No, mom. This is a big opportunity for you. Go get it! Because you have pre-existing conditions. Just go get it,'" Shey said. "We are so privileged. We are not on the frontline or medical, but we got this vaccine. So, it’s a very big privilege for us."
Texas Health said it hoped taking the vaccine into neighborhoods and communities would increase access and decrease fear.
"The population will often have access barriers in getting to other sites, and so, we want to come to them. And there's also a certain fear and mistrust in terms of the vaccine, the science behind it (with questions such as), 'Am I going to be OK if I get it?' And being able to partner with a provider the community knows and trusts is going to facilitate that process in order for us to be able to get people vaccinated and hopefully be able to create ambassadors that will get back into their community and talk about their experience and talk about the importance of the vaccine, so we can continue to come back and get more people vaccinated," Oliveros said.
Oliveros added Friday, the event at Southeast Community Health Center was only the first step in their efforts to distribute vaccines to the community.
"We will be partnering with the six community health centers in Tarrant County and we will be doing the same thing, going to their locations and encouraging their patients and the population that they serve to come in and get the vaccine," she said.
Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?
County health departments have launched waitlists for adults 16 years old and over.
You can register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:
You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.
In a news release, Texas Health said "NTACHC and Texas Health want to achieve equitable distribution of vaccines to all communities within North Texas, especially underserved, medically disadvantaged areas that have been hit hard by the disease and have high numbers of residents in the Phase 1B category. The initiative reflects NTACHC’s mission to provide high-quality medical services, while serving as a safety net for the lower-income population, to help end health disparities in the community. The work is also part of Texas Health’s effort to use its deep connections with community organizations and mobilize those relationships throughout the region to get the COVID-19 vaccine to people who might not have the means to get it through existing vaccination sites."
Texas Health will use today's vaccination clinic as a model for other partnerships to get more vaccines into more underserved areas.