Coronavirus pandemic

Baylor Scott & White, Seton Medical Center and AdventHealth will administer COVID-19 vaccinations on behalf of Bell County, a local official announced.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Bell County Judge David Blackburn said this partnership will allow the Bell County Public Health District — which has overseen the administration of 20,398 first doses and 7,173 second doses — to reach more Texas residents.

“Beginning next week, Bell County will allocate (doses) to each of these three health care providers, so that they can establish vaccination centers on their own campuses,” Blackburn said. “By working with these three providers, we have effectively and efficiently expanded our vaccination process.”

These health care providers will each receive 1,002 doses per week from the Bell County Public Health District.

Kevin Roberts, CEO and president of AdventHealth Central Texas, stressed how this partnership is a defining moment. “If you are hesitant about the vaccine, just think about being part of that herd (immunity), because at the end of the day, this is really going to make a big difference,” Roberts said during the news conference on Wednesday.

Angie Gentry, Baylor Scott & White’s director of Trauma and Forensics, echoed Roberts’ remarks, and emphasized how COVID-19 vaccines are backed by ever-growing data.

“As health care workers, we're privileged to not only witness but to take part in the medical breakthrough that will help protect our communities,” she said. “As more data is becoming available every day, we’re validating the safety and efficacy of receiving this vaccine … and further reinforcing our trust in the science and research in its sound reasoning.”

Allocation transfers to these three providers are slated to begin next week, and Health District Director Amanda Robison-Chadwell said registration information is available online at bit.ly/3bwz7P0 — bookings that Blackburn stressed are open to the public.

“These doses are available to the public ... so while they may all have their own patient base, they will be operating under the same guidelines that (Bell County has) been operating under,” Backburn said.

The county’s top elected official highlighted how Lampasas and Mills counties will each receive 198 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on a weekly basis from Bell County.

“As a (vaccination) hub, we are obligated to make a vaccine available beyond the borders of Bell County … in fact, we cannot restrict the vaccine by residency or address requirements at all,” Blackburn said. “Lampasas and Mills (counties) have not been receiving consistent doses, and in many weeks have not received any doses.”

The counties, which are expected to operate multiple vaccination sites, will each be allotted 198 doses weekly.

Mobile vaccinations

Health officials in Bell County are striving to target their own underserved communities through “dynamic sites.”

“We are hopeful that we can get these dynamic sites operating within the next couple of weeks,” Blackburn said. “We have already begun a process of connecting with the local community groups, and are in the early stages of scheduling dynamic sites that will serve those locations. This means that we'll be able to offer residents more locations and more options for getting their vaccinations.”

Blackburn hopes to share further details about these planned sites “very soon.”

Sammons Center closure

Although Bell County expects to resume administering first doses at the Killeen Community Center this week, inoculations at the Sammons Community Center in Temple are paused indefinitely.

“Due to the severe damage … of water pipes breaking at that facility — as a result of the winter event last week — the city of Temple advises that the Sammons Center will probably be out of commission for weeks, if not months.”

With Bell County continually retooling its COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, Blackburn expressed his gratitude to all who have played a part.

“I’m very thankful for the work and efforts of so many people in getting (vaccinations) done,” he said. “The many nurses and staff in the health district, and the other health care professionals that have volunteered their time to make our centers and operations work … are the clinical arms of our vaccination process. They are the ones responsible to see that we have the vaccine, that it is ready to be administered and that it gets administered.”