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Dallas County is spending $30 million to hand over COVID vaccine distribution to private company



DALLAS, TX – Dallas County will spend up to $30 million in federal coronavirus aid to pay for future vaccine efforts, including pop-up inoculation sites and walk-in clinics.

Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with Colorado-based American Medical Response Ambulance Service to lead the next chapter in the county’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The company will begin to take over the county health department’s vaccine hub at Fair Park as early as next week.

The once beleaguered hub in South Dallas in recent weeks has become one of the largest inoculation sites in Texas, administering up to 12,000 doses per day. Since Feb. 24, it has served as one of several federal vaccination sites run by the U.S. military and Federal Emergency Management Agency aimed at increasing immunity in underserved and highly vulnerable communities.

Tuesday’s vote comes as the soldiers from Fort Riley, Kan., are set to leave May 15. At the same time, commissioners and officials across the country are grappling with a dramatic increase in vaccine supply and shrinking demand. This week alone, providers across Dallas County received more than 100,000 doses, exceeding what the state gave out weeks ago.

As of Monday, one out of every four Dallas County residents over 16 had been fully vaccinated, according to state data. More than half of all county residents over 65 had been fully immunized, and over 75% had received at least one shot. The county’s waiting list, which once numbered nearly 1 million people, has been exhausted, and the county is providing shots without an appointment.

“That we have vaccinated 75% of the most vulnerable speaks well of Dallas County,” said Commissioner Elba Garcia, who represents western Dallas County.

The county health department will maintain supervision of the Fair Park site. Local officials will also continue to work with the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation to identify neighborhoods in need of more vaccinations. That information, officials said, will be used to target new pop-up sites that take the vaccine directly to communities that have been unable to access it.

Commissioner J.J. Koch, who represents northern Dallas County, said he wants the county to have a pop-up site going within two weeks.

“We all know going forward that model is going to be what carries us home,” he said.

Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County health department director, told commissioners he believed even as demand appears to slow down, June is still a reasonable expectation for the county to reach herd immunity — when enough people are immune to a disease to significantly reduce infection rates.

American Medical Response has previously helped local governments with vaccine sites throughout the country, including Arlington. The company helped the Arlington Fire Department with its vaccine site.