Despite last week’s announcement that Palestine Regional Medical Center will serve as a vaccination hub, Mayor Steve Presley said Monday the state has not yet officially approved the site. Drive-through vaccinations are available, but on a limited basis.

Meantime, citizens, especially the elderly, are still having difficulty registering and obtaining COVID-19 vaccinations.

Presley commended PRMC’s application to become a distribution hub for COVID vaccinations.

Vaccinations are now available on a limited basis for people in two groups, 1A and 1B. Group 1A includes all frontline healthcare workers and emergency responders; Group 1B includes everyone older than 65 and younger individuals with qualifying pre-existing conditions.

Presley, a registered pharmacist, described the current distribution of the vaccine as a logistical challenge.

PRMC began offering drive-through vaccinations at its rehabilitation hospital site last week, but doses are limited because the state has not yet designated the hospital as a vaccine distribution hub.

“Vaccines have been coming in in small and scattered amounts,” he said. “The planned PRMC vaccination hub is going to be a great thing for the area if they can get that set up soon, but for now it’s out of their hands.”

Small numbers of doses are currently available through PRMC and some medical providers and pharmacies. Some providers require patients to contact them to set up appointments, but only when doses are available.

A statement on the PRMC website says no more vaccinations are available this week, but more may be available Feb. 17. The site, encourages patients to register next week and to follow PRMC’s Facebook page and the newspaper.

“The problem is the state’s allocation is not enough to serve the existing locations,” Presley said. “It looks like a good plan if PRMC can be approved and get the doses coming in. We have no time in sight when that can happen yet because they’ve got to get the doses approved to come in on a regular basis.”

Councilwoman Larissa Loveless, Place 1, described the difficulties elderly citizens are facing in setting and obtaining vaccination appointments.

“My heart just bleeds for the elderly people because I walked through the process myself, and it’s a challenge,” Loveless said. “Our elderly community is very overwhelmed by it,” she said.

Presley said the Texas Department of Human Services announces locations that will receive shipments of the vaccination doses each week, but providers do not know what days the shipments will arrive.

People who do not have internet access can call 2-1-1 Texas to request information. Currently, the closest vaccination hubs are in Smith County.

The mayor stressed the need for community volunteers to help organize PRMC’s upcoming effort to provide vaccinations. He encouraged church leaders to contact him to help organize volunteer efforts.

“We’re going to have to have community volunteers who will help and make this happen,” Presley said.

The City Council and the Economic Development Board are holding a joint meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11 at Palestine City Hall to discuss the need to limit face-to-face meetings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Public access to the meeting is available, and face coverings are required. Members of the public are invited to view the meeting via Zoom and submit comments electronically as the presiding officer permits.

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