Inside Operations at East Texas Vaccine Hub

Organizers were ready for COVID-19 vaccine distribution at the start of the rollout and North Texans flocked for their shot

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Accomplishing the logistical feat of vaccinating the masses and with only weeks to do it meant turning to the experts.

Dr. Glenn Barnes is a former U.S Army Green Beret officer who now develops policies for the state's Infectious Disease Response Unit.

He also happened to be teaching at UT Tyler, when they received word to prepare a mass vaccination site.

"The ability to move the people and supplies is a fairly fundamental process, so, from drawing from the military experience and from what has already been developed for FEMA and natural disasters, it was easy to combine them and revamp them for what we need," said Dr. Barnes.

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:

Waitlist Links: Collin - Search Waitlist | Dallas | Denton | Tarrant

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.

Using FEMA's procedures to distribute food, blankets and water during disasters, he and his team transformed the Harvey Hall Convention Center in Tyler into outdoor and indoor vaccination areas.

They secured supplies, from gloves to trash cans, and dipped into the UT Tyler School of Nursing for volunteers to help vaccinate.

"We had done dry runs and rehearsals to make sure that we had everything accounted for so that when it actually became time to get it, the vaccine was just a variable that we plugged in," said Barnes.

In the first week of the state's vaccine roll-out, they were in a position to vaccinate thousands, and word spread to eager North Texans, like Amy Jain of Frisco.

"It was worth it for me to get in the car and drive," said Jain of the two-hour commute to Tyler, where she received her second dose Tuesday.

"Two hours in the car each way wasn’t terrible. It was easy for me. It was important for me to be able to do it," said Jain.

Barnes is now writing a vaccine hub "playbook" to help other organizations in their set-up efforts and ultimately help the bigger goal of beating COVID-19.

"The bottom line is that we need to get these vaccines out to the people. If we can help other people do that, it just a win for everyone," Barnes.

Residents from multiple regions of Texas including Dallas, Plano, Rowlett, Garland, Mesquite, Sunnyvale, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and Frisco have enrolled in the waiting list and have received a COVID-19 vaccine from NET Health's DSHS COVID-19 vaccination hub in Tyler.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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