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Williamson County expanding 'VRTA' sites, adding new vaccination site in Georgetown

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell gave an update on vaccine distribution in the county Friday morning.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas — Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell says county officials and health care providers are working to make sure the designated groups that should be receiving vaccines get them, especially the county's senior population.

In a press conference Friday morning, Gravell said that 34,678 vaccine doses have been administered in the county, and a few thousand individuals have been able to receive second doses. But he said there are about 450,000 people that could qualify for the vaccine in Williamson County, which would be a total of 900,000 doses.

"It's going to take us a long time to get there, but we're working really hard," Gravell said.

He also said the Williamson County and Cities Health District has managed to complete the 1A category and is now in the process of circling back and checking on area nursing homes to make sure every senior is vaccinated. Gravell said just this week that it was discovered that four nursing homes had not been vaccinated.

"And so, through the effort of the health district, along with our paramedics and working with Family Hospital Systems, we're able to put in shots in arms of some 600 residents in area senior care facilities," he said.

This week, to try to get more qualified people vaccinated, Williamson County is increasing the number of locations where vaccines will be administered. Gravell said on Monday and Tuesday, Family Hospital Systems will be vaccinating at the Kelly Reeves site. Then, Wednesday, either Family Hospital Systems or Curative will be vaccinating at a new location: the Georgetown High School football stadium parking lot.

"The goal of the county is to have Family Hospital Systems manage kind of the west side and then have Curative manage a vaccination site in Georgetown, ultimately, as well as opening a vaccination site at the Dell Diamond," Gravell said. 

"We have also asked some of our hospitals to help us. And this week, we will be transferring 500 doses to ... Baylor Scott and White systems, which will be vaccinating, from my understanding, at their Round Rock location," Gravell continued. "So, the county, through our hub, receives a number of doses each week and Family Hospital Systems, myself and our senior team have conversations about where those resources need to be shifted, falling in [the] 1A and 1B category. Much like discovering the nursing homes, when those were discovered through the health district's hard work, we were able to shift those vaccines to make sure that we could get shots in arms."   

This week, Williamson County will also be expanding a program called "VRTA" or the Vaccine Registration Technical Assistance sites. These sites serve as locations where seniors can go to be helped through the technical aspects of registering for a vaccine.

VRTA sites use county technology to ensure data is kept confidential, but the county is seeking partnerships with area churches to set up the sites.

"This past week at Sun City, where our first VRTA site was set up – really what it is, it was county employees and volunteers helping senior adults who couldn't operate technology, who didn't have technology, helping them to be able just to register to get a shot," Gravell said, adding that VRTA centers won't be just for seniors but anyone who needs help and assistance in signing up for the vaccination.

Gravell said this week, the VRTA center in Sun City will continue to operate in the Sun City Ballroom, even though the county is moving the vaccination location to the GHS football field. The county is also hoping to set up VRTA centers in Cedar Park and Taylor this week. 

As far as future plans to help seniors who can't get out to vaccination centers, Gravell said the county is thinking ahead. But as with all things vaccine-related, there remains the issue of supply.

"Williamson County is currently working on a plan through our health district with our EMS system, in conjunction with Curative, for mobile vaccinations that will go door-to-door for those that are truly homebound," he said. "But again, it is a great plan. We have some really good shovel-ready plans. The reality is we just don't have the vaccine to do that. But we are making the plans now for mobile vaccination centers that could go door-to-door."

According to KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman, will also be launching a hotline for people who have questions.

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