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County, public health leaders discuss COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Central Texas

While some leaders believe the process to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines to providers is moving too slow, others feel differently.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The statistics in this story are accurate as of Jan. 5. They are subject to change as more vaccines are distributed in the future. 

While Texas ranks 20th in the U.S. for the percentage of available vaccines that have been used compared to the number distributed, just one-third of the vaccines have been used throughout the state as of Jan. 5. 

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) data shows 439,502 doses have been administered out of the 1,333,450 doses shipped. 

In Central Texas, several counties have already been distributing vaccines to frontline health care workers and those in Phases 1A and 1B. And while some leaders believe the process to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines to providers is moving too slow, others feel differently. 

Using population estimates from the U.S. Census and vaccine allocation data from the DSHS, KVUE broke down how many vaccines have been distributed to several Central Texas counties as of Jan. 5. 

Travis County

According to the U.S. Census 2019 estimate, Travis County's population is 1,273,954. According to vaccine allocation data from the DSHS, there have been 54,250 vaccines distributed so far, which is enough for 4.2% of the population.

In a briefing with the Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday, Austin Public Health (APH) Director Stephanie Hayden said that there are not enough vaccine doses to administer widely to the community when compared to the state and county population. 

"We don't have what we need. It is definitely a supply issue," Hayden said.

She added that it's important for people to know that there aren't enough vaccines to meet the demand right now. But, as more become available, Hayden said that APH will prioritize them for those who do not have access to a vaccine provider in efforts to address equity gaps in vaccine administration.

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Hays County

According to the U.S. Census 2019 estimate, Hays County's population is 230,191. According to vaccine allocation data from the DSHS, there have been 4,875 vaccines distributed so far, which is enough for 2.1% of the population. 

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 4, expressing concern that local public health departments have not been highlighted as priority providers for COVID-19 vaccines and asking that the State provide vaccines to those departments. 

Bastrop County

According to the U.S. Census 2019 estimate, Bastrop County's population is 88,723. According to vaccine allocation data, there have been 1,000 vaccines distributed there so far, which is enough for just 1.13% of the population. 

KVUE spokes to Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Bastrop County health authority, on Tuesday. She said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 939 of those 1,000 vaccines have been administered. She also said the positivity rate in the county is the highest it's been during the pandemic. 

"And that's alarming. And citizens are being asked to redouble their efforts to lower mass social distance and stay home if they're sick," Dr. Walkes said. 

She added that while the vaccine rollout has been slow, she understands that much of the initial doses needed to go to larger urban centers first. 

"We all in the rural communities, though, raised our hands and said, 'Don't forget about us,'" Dr. Walkes said. "But we did understand that we needed to get it to the places where we've been sending patients for treatment when they developed severe disease. So, I think it's evolving slowly, slower than anybody really wants it to. But we understand, and we are patiently waiting to get more vaccines and trying to increase vaccine acceptance along the way so that when we do get the larger quantities, we can get people vaccinated out here and, and keep things going."

Credit: Luis de Leon
The Seton microhospital in Bastrop where COVID-19 vaccines are also being distributed.

Williamson County

According to the U.S. Census 2019 estimate, Williamson County's population is 590,551. There have been more than 16,000 vaccines distributed there so far, which is enough for between 2.5% and nearly 3% of the population.

On Tuesday, the county said 2,020 seniors currently living in long-term care facilities or nursing homes in the county have begun receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell told KVUE Tuesday that he is pleased with the rollout of the vaccine so far.   

"I'm very excited about the rollout. It's actually going faster than we thought," Gravell said. "But the logistics of getting the vaccine from there to here are complicated. But it seems to be working really well."

He also had a message for those who are waiting to get their doses of the vaccine. 

"Please understand, in the mind of this county judge, there is no one more important right now than those that are living in our long-term care facilities, that they [get] taken care of, along with those that are 65 and older. So, be patient. It will be your days. But I think the rollout is moving as swiftly as it can," Gravell said.

For information on how to get the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

WATCH: COVID-19 vaccine rollout: Central Texas community leaders voice concerns about equity

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