Collin County Commissioners took informal action at their Monday meeting to move COVID-19 vaccinations from the waitlist to a first-come, first-serve model once everyone on the waitlist is vaccinated.
Bill Bilyeu, Collin County administrator, said the county wants to move to a model where on a specific day each week, Collin County announces COVID-19 vaccine appointments that are available for the following week.
Collin County launched its COVID-19 vaccination waitlist for residents who met the Texas Department of Health State Services’ 1A, health care workers and residents in long-term care facilities, and 1B, those over 65 and those 16 or older with chronic medical conditions, categories on Jan. 5. However, thousands upon thousands signed up, which led to major issues.
For one, Curative Medical Associates, which Collin County Commissioners unanimously voted to contract with to distribute vaccines on Jan. 11, had to cut its line off early at the John Clark Stadium on Feb. 4. The problem was that Collin County’s vaccination site worked off a waitlist compared to Curative’s other sites across the country that worked on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The blunder led to county commissioners temporarily suspending new sign-ups on the waitlist because of the severe backup on Feb. 8. The waitlist has remained frozen at 275,056 sign-ups since then.
Bilyeu said the county’s waitlist has about 10,455 people left now. And in fitting with the commissioners’ goal of suspending the waitlist so that people would go elsewhere to get it, the county has only had about a 20% response ratio over the last two weeks. Essentially, this means that when the county reaches out to 100 people on the waitlist to let them know they are next in line to get vaccinated, only about 20 of them actually schedule an appointment.
Collin County Judge Chris Hill asked Bilyeu when, once the last 10,000 on the waitlist are served, the county will start scheduling appointments for the first group following the waitlist group. Bilyeu said they would be able to open the county’s portal to make appointments Friday if the commissioners’ decided to make the move, which they informally, but unanimously, agreed to do.
Typically, Bilyeu said the county finds out from the state health department how many vaccines it will receive for the week on Wednesday or Thursday. In the new model, they will start setting up appointments as soon as they find out how many vaccines are being allocated for the next week.
The move would cut out Collin County acting as the “middleman” between the person getting vaccinated and the vendor.
“The relationship that people would have would be directly with Curative — all of their input, HIPAA information would be with them,” Bilyeu said. “It wouldn’t get lost through the third-party middleman, which is what we have now.”
By scheduling appointments instead, Bilyeu said it will also allow people to choose which vaccination they want — Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
“For example, Curative, right now, is doing Pfizer and Moderna only, but if they ever moved to Johnson & Johnson also, and someone didn’t want Johnson & Johnson, [and] the only thing open is Johnson & Johnson, they pass, and they wait until the next time,” Bilyeu said.