Dr. Rachel Jones sees a certain irony in getting her COVID-19 vaccination on March 13, her birthday.
“Last year on my birthday, it was the last day we had in-person class for the school year because of COVID,” said Jones, assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at Burnet Consolidated Independent School District. “This year on my birthday, I’m getting my vaccine. It’s a happy day.”
The city of Burnet, Burnet County, and Ascension Seton Highland Lakes organized the vaccine clinic for school staff at the Burnet Community Center. On March 11, the three also hosted a public clinic for everyone who is eligible for the vaccine. It filled up within three hours of registration opening.
“We have a high demand for (the vaccine),” Burnet County Emergency Management coordinator Jim Barho told Burnet County commissioners during a March 9 meeting.
Currently, vaccinations in Texas are open to medical personnel, first responders, longterm care facility staff and residents, ages 65 and older, ages 16 and older with serious medical conditions, and, as of Monday, March 15, ages 50 and older. Additional information on the state’s vaccine rollout plan can be found on the Texas Department of State Health Services website.
The March 13 clinic was scheduled to “knock out” as many school staff vaccinations as possible.
BCISD sent an email to its staff, and 162 of them registered for the clinic as well as additional employees from Marble Falls ISD. Jones added that some staff might have already received vaccinations under other eligibility qualifications.
As well as protecting employees against COVID-19, the vaccinations will ensure teachers can stay in school. Previously, if staff came into close contact with someone who had or was suspected of having COVID-19, they had to quarantine.
“What (Burnet County Health Authority) Dr. (Jules) Madrigal has told us, if someone has the vaccine, then they won’t be subject to contact tracing or getting quarantined if they come in contact with someone (with COVID-19),” Jones said. “So, for a district, that means fewer people out because of quarantine. Operationally, that’s so important. It’s just huge for us.”
Burnet County officials have been lobbying the state for more vaccines. While Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls is a state-designated vaccine hub, Burnet County Judge James Oakley pointed out it serves several counties — Burnet, Llano, Blanco, and Mason — with only 1,170 doses received a week. Burnet County makes up at least 55 percent of the total population of those counties, he noted at the Commissioners Court meeting March 9. He is appreciative of Baylor Scott & White’s efforts, but he and other officials feel Burnet County needs additional doses to protect its residents. He and Barho have been regularly contacting state officials stressing that need.
Additional doses started arriving the week of March 8 with at least 500 going to Ascension Seton Highland Lakes in Burnet.
Barho told commissioners that the partnership with the hospital and the city of Burnet has worked out well. The city purchased the software for the registration process and offered the community center and personnel to assist in the clinics, and Ascension Seton Highland Lakes has supported the program with its vaccine allotments and medical staff.
“It’s really been a team effort between the county, the city, and Seton Ascension,” Barho said. “We just need more vaccines.”
He added that the success of the clinics should demonstrate to the state that Burnet County has the ability to administer them.
The partnership’s work paid off for school staff who got their vaccinations March 13.
“We are so grateful to Seton, so grateful for the Burnet County Emergency Management, the county, and the city for this,” Jones said. “Not every school district is able to have a clinic like this. There are a lot of schools and their staff who are just left on their own to get vaccinated.
“This is a huge blessing for us,” she added.
And, quite a birthday gift.