The medical personnel administering about 1,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a week in the Highland Lakes need a shot in the arm — from you — said Jordan Newell, the director of clinic operations for Baylor Scott & White Health-Hill Country Region.
And by that, he means volunteer help at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls, a state-designated vaccination hub.
“It’s going to take neighbor helping neighbor,” Newell said of the federal and state governments’ efforts to vaccinate a majority of U.S. residents by the end of the summer.
Volunteers are needed to assist with the logistics of vaccine distribution, which occurs one day a week. The Marble Falls hub receives 975 doses of COVID-19 vaccine most Mondays. Each dose has to be scheduled for a specific arm over the next few days. The actual shots are given all in one day later in the week. Rinse and repeat, week after week.
The 35 medical professionals tasked with vaccine duty at the Marble Falls hub also must keep up with their regular workload.
“We have reached out into the community and have a lot of people signing up (to be) volunteers,” Newell said. “People are donating meals to the teams we have working in overdrive. That’s keeping us encouraged and excited to have a partnership like this with the community.”
The road to that partnership was a little bumpy at first. The first vaccination clinic was Jan. 28. The proverbial grapevines in the Highland Lakes quickly began buzzing with stories of Baylor Scott & White favoring people who were already patients and those with insurance. The Picayune Magazine received a number of calls and emails about the problems and the rumors and asked the healthcare system to explain.
The hitches and glitches were technical and logistical, not nefarious, Newell said.
“We are not filtering by insurance status,” he assured. “Patients are asked for that information, and we bill the insurance companies, but we are not denying anyone access based on their ability to pay.”
The vaccinations are paid for by the federal government, he said, and are available to everyone, period.
Whether or not your doctor is affiliated with Baylor Scott & White is also not an issue, Newell continued. Those rumors seemed to be generated from direct calls to the Marble Falls medical center during the first days of vaccine distribution.
“Since the opening, we have been able to partner with staffing firms to beef up resources in the call center,” Newell said. “Now, 95 percent are getting through the first time, after the long wait times the first two weeks. Only 5 percent cannot get through the first time. That’s exceptional.”
Baylor Scott & White usually opens its vaccine schedule for the doses it will be giving out that week on Tuesdays. The portals do not open until the hub actually has the vaccine on hand.
“The past few weeks, we received the doses late Monday evening,” Newell said. “First thing Tuesday, we opened scheduling. We want it in hand before we push play on our process.”
Until recently, people were vaccinated while in their vehicles. Although the process was effective, Baylor Scott & White has transitioned to walk-in due to the weather.
“This way, we don’t have to reschedule anyone, which holds up the process,” Newell continued. “Right now, we are dealing with cold. Later, it will be the heat.”
Vaccinations are expected to continue throughout the spring and summer, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, only medical personnel, first responders, longterm care facility staff and patients, those ages 65 and older, those ages 16 and older with medical issues, and school and childcare workers are being vaccinated.
The state defines the phases and determines when distribution hubs can open their schedules to the next category of eligibility.
Locally, the system improves each week, Newell said.
“We are listening to feedback and incorporating ideas from the community and from best practices from around the state,” he said.
No matter how well a system works, however, Newell admitted some people will have problems connecting.
“Someone may need to help them,” he said of people having trouble with either the hotline or the app. “That’s what we mean by neighbor helping neighbor. We are asking the community to make this a holistic community effort. Reach out to anyone you know who is having trouble. Help them create an account on the app. The app is the quickest way to get this vaccine out to the at-risk population.”
To volunteer to help on vaccine days at the Baylor Scott & White-Marble Falls hub, visit BSWHealth.com/locations/marble-falls and look for the Become a Volunteer box to fill out a volunteer form.
To offer a helping hand to a senior in need, give one you know a call to make sure they are getting their shot in the arm, too.