Dr. Carolyn Salter shared her strategies for vaccinating rural residents in a Texas Tribune podcast Saturday, which announced that vaccination rates in Anderson County are less than 11%, compared to the statewide 24% rate.
Local factors such as poverty, lack of transportation, limited broadband access, and vaccination reluctance are keeping COVID-19 vaccination rates low and causing infections to rise. Even the fear of needles is keeping some locals from accepting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There are just a lot of people that don’t believe COVID exists,” Salter said. “It’s like a personal liberty statement instead of an infection control issue for them, so that is causing a lot of transmission of the disease.”
Salter said she and her partner at Sycamore Medical Clinic, Dr. Michael Gorby, have administered roughly 1,700 of first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Their clinic is making it as easy as possible for people to obtain vaccinations. They allow people to call for appointments by phone and drive up behind the clinic to receive vaccines.
Patients who rely on others for rides to the clinic may have difficulty scheduling an appointment, so calling ahead is not always necessary.
“Even if they just show up we’ll get them vaccinated,” she said.
The physicians have visited schools, meat packing plants, community centers, and even people’s homes to administer COVID-19 vaccines. In addition to Anderson County, they held clinics in Oakwood and Crockett, and are making arrangements with local churches.
“We’d like there to be more acceptance,” she said. “A lot of people think they’re not going to get COVID.”
Sycamore Medical Clinic was the first clinic in the area to offer testing a year ago to patients, prisons, and schools, and has been offering the vaccine since earlier this year.
Palestine Regional Medical Center has also led the way by administering more than 5,000 COVID vaccines, many at 11 drive-through clinics in February and March.
Salter is optimistic about the recent recommendation to resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as it helps vaccination process by only requiring one dose.
She said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which caused one death out of 6.5 million patients, is “extremely safe” and will improve efforts to vaccinate more people.
“It’s so much easier for more people to come and get one shot instead of two,” she said.
“I think every doctor, every physician, every nurse practitioner, every pharmacist has the obligation to try and make the population safe however they can.”
Call Sycamore Medical Clinic at 903-7290-8328 for information. Vaccines are also available at Walmart, Walgreen’s, and CVS pharmacies and other physicians’ offices in Anderson County.