Texas Dept. of State Health Services hosts COVID-19 vaccine outreach pop-up event at Texarkana Walmart

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 1:24 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 3:56 PM CDT
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TEXARKANA, Texas (KSLA) - More than 32 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across the state of Texas, but leaders say more is needed in certain areas, including northeast Texas.

So the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) hosted a pop-up event Oct. 11 in Texarkana, Texas, to encourage those age 12 or older who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to do so. Another is set for Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Center, Texas.

COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Bowie County in December 2020. Although tens of thousands of doses have been administered so far, Bowie County and parts of east Texas continue to have low vaccination rates.

“We are here in Texarkana because we have identified by ZIP code some of the lower vaccination rates, so we are here to hopefully improve that,” said Robert Santiago, a spokesman for DSHS. “Just letting people know that the vaccine is free and available today without an appointment seems to be the most important thing I share.”

The Texarkana event was held from 3-7 p.m. Monday in the parking lot of Walmart at 4000 New Boston Road. The outdoor event featured a family-friendly display and activities, such as the “Take the Shot” basketball game, as well as a wheel spin and prizes.

Some health leaders attribute the low vaccination rates to what they say is false information. Evelynn Cole got her question answered at Monday’s event.

“If it was approved of, it was going to work, but I worked with a lot of people, so I’m glad I got it,” Cole said.

DSHS officials say statewide, around 62% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

“I’ve had a lot of people come by and express gratitude with what we are doing. They are just grateful for the vaccine. The vaccine is how we are going to get back to normal,” Santiago said.

The family-friendly display at the event, which is touring the state during the fall, includes an outdoor video wall that plays public service announcements from DSHS, as well as clips from local doctors, community members and parents sharing info about the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Vaccines are widely available to residents in Texarkana.
Vaccines are widely available to residents in Texarkana.(DSHS)

“COVID-19 vaccines prevent almost all cases of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. With the more contagious Delta variant having caused a spike in hospitalizations among unvaccinated individuals in all age groups, it’s more important than ever to talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional about your questions or concerns,” said Valerie Smith, MD, MPH, FAAP, who is a member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 task force.

This series of pop-up events is focusing on smaller, more rural communities in Texas where vaccination rates are lower. The campaign also targets urban areas with a large number of unvaccinated residents.

DSHS says healthcare providers in Texas have administered almost 32 million doses of the vaccine to more than 16 million people. About 15 million Texans are fully vaccinated, which is 62% of the eligible population. The state says vaccination rates by age group vary from about 80% for those 65 and up to 47% for those ages 12-17.

De Queen, Ark. resident Kathy House was on hand Monday in Texarkana to show her support for the campaign. “I lost a sister the 26th of July to COVID. Everybody get their COVID shot.”

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