Texas EMS Agencies Administering Vaccines
Texas EMS agencies are leading vaccine hubs to administer the Covid-19 vaccine to Texans. TEMSA recently sat down with Michael Furrh of Lavaca County EMS to discuss Lavaca County EMS’s partnerships with surrounding counties to distribute the vaccine.
TEMSA: Washington County EMS took the lead on creating a vaccine hub for its region. What was the impetus behind creating this hub as an EMS agency?
Michael Furrh: I visited their drive through site last week and was very impressed. Immediately, I was able to find my good friend, Kevin Deramus, where he was able to explain to me the logistics. I know he can speak better on this topic than I can, but they have been providing vaccines to the community for years, so being ahead of the plan definitely helped out with them. Most other sub hubs (like ourselves in Lavaca County) are having to submit plans immediately in hopes they are approved in a timely matter.
TEMSA: What have the logistics been like?
Michael Furrh: Again, logistics are and can be overwhelming for our rural friends. A lack of employee base is the biggest hurdle. Therefore, Lavaca County has partnered with Colorado County to bring vaccinations to both of our counties. We have created and submitted a plan to DSHS and will be sharing our EMT’s and Paramedics to make this happen. When we created our plan, we brainstormed for a week off and of between departments and County Judges. Our final plan revolved around the minimal personnel it would take to run the site. This was a lesson learned during Hurricane Harvey. To this day, we are still waiting for some requested assets to show up, so, we knew we would have to create a plan as if nobody was coming to help us. Any other volunteers or county / city employees that can help are then implemented into the plan to expand the amount of vaccines we can provide.
TEMSA: What are your goals for the next few weeks for the hub? Or are you having to take things on a week-to-week basis?
Michael Furrh: For us, and what I understand most, is all week by week. As these vaccination sites get up and running and the flow of vaccine is more stable, we will be able to get better at predicting how the next week will flow. Right now, our goal is to provide 250 vaccines a week in Lavaca county and 250 a week in Colorado county. This gives us a total of 500 vaccines a week between the two counties and our plan consists of a total of 12,000 vaccines by the time the plan will come to a close.
TEMSA: How has it been working with other health care and government stakeholders in other counties to make this work for the region?
Michael Furrh: I do not want to speak for anyone else, but our reception to this idea has been fantastic on our local level. Too many times we find EMS agencies and hospitals working against each other on certain agendas, but this time, we all have a common goal and that’s “shots in arms.” Lavaca Medical Center and Yoakum Community Hospital along with the corresponding agencies in Colorado county have been working together very well to make this plan come to fruition.
TEMSA: What role did state lawmakers play in making this happen?
Michael Furrh: We have been in constant communication with Senator Louis Kolkhorst and Chief Kidd’s office at TDEM. Between the County Judge’s and our EMS departments, they have been an integral part on making our sub hub come to light. Being able to contact our Senator, after hours and even on weekends to help with our plan has been invaluable and we are truly blessed to have Senator Kolkhorst on our side.
TEMSA: What advice would you have for other EMS agencies around the state that are thinking about leading their own vaccine hub efforts?
Michael Furrh: DO NOT re invent the wheel. Reach out to folks who have passed successful plans. In my administration career, I have built a vast network of colleagues and friends that I always reach out to if I have an issue. They are invaluable and you should do the same. At the end of the day, we are all in this together and we are all willing to help each other out. Big departments or small, make the call.