Christus Good Shepherd Health System, Gregg County and the City of Longview are creating a “sustainable vaccine program” after the health care system on Monday announced it has been named a COVID-19 vaccine hub by the state.

Through the program, the state will send thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Christus Good Shepherd each week, which the hospital will then administer to qualifying individuals. Those interested in receiving the vaccine must schedule an appointment to attend an upcoming vaccine clinic.

Christus announced Monday that it was launching the My Shot Now campaign with weekend clinics scheduled through Feb. 21. More clinics are anticipated to follow over the coming weeks and months.

“We’ve heard from the public. They’ve waited patiently. They want their shot now, and this is their time,” Christus Good Shepherd Health System CEO Todd Hancock said. “This marks a very important milestone as we move forward and this is going to be the mechanism by how we return to normalcy, not only here locally but regionally, statewide and nationally.”

The announcement of Christus Good Shepherd as a vaccine hub marks the first such hub in Gregg County. There are 78 other vaccine hubs in the state. The nearest to Longview are in Smith County, where there are two hubs.

Beginning Saturday, Christus Good Shepherd and Christus Trinity Clinic staff along with first responders from Longview and Gregg County will begin a weekend clinic to administer the COVID-19 vaccines to those who fall into Phase 1A or 1B of the state’s vaccination program. Qualifying individuals include health care workers, those older than 65 and those with chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, cancer and others.

The vaccine clinics, which will be held at the Longview Exhibit Center at the Longview Convention Complex, are free to attend but pre-registration is required. Registration can be made online at vaccinate.christushealth.org or by calling (877) 335-5746.

By 5 p.m. Monday, all available appointments for this weekend’s clinic had been filled. The soonest available appointments were Feb. 14 and Feb. 21.

Hancock said through the sustainable program, Christus Good Shepherd plans to administer 3,000 to 4,000 COVID-19 vaccines each week to first-time recipients. By the third or fourth week of the program, Christus’ vaccine allocation from the state will double so that the hospital can begin to administer second doses. Christus is being supplied with the Pfizer vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as two shots; an initial injection and then a follow-up shot administered 21 days later.

For those who attend, Hancock said they must arrive at the Exhibit Center at their designated time. The whole process is designed to take no more than 30 minutes, with each individual having to wait at the Exhibit Center for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccination to make sure the person does not have any immediate side effects.

Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said Monday he is proud of the “sustainable program” that the county, city and health care system are creating in partnership with the state.

When Gregg County leaders first approached representatives in Austin about the possibility of a vaccine program here, Stoudt said a key component for Gregg County’s leaders was that this be a sustainable program. He noted the county wanted to offer more than a one-time clinic.

“We wanted a sustainable program that we would be able to give shots out month after month after month. That is the intent of this program that makes it so much different than what’s been done in the past,” he said.

State Rep. Jay Dean said he was proud of the collaboration that helped bring the program to Gregg County.

“Having an aggressive effort to provide vaccines to our residents is critical to moving our community forward and saving lives,” Dean said.

Longview Mayor Andy Mack said he believes the weekly vaccine program is what the community needs “to turn the tide and help us get back to normal.”

“There is a normal still out there, we just have to get back to it,” Mack said.

Mack said he is proud of those in the community who have taken precautions to help curb the spread of the virus.

Mark Anderson, chief medical officer for Christus Health System, said those precautions will still be necessary, even as the county begins its vaccine program. He encouraged the community to continue taking all of the precautions that have been in place for the past 10 months — social distancing, washing hands and wearing a face mask.

For the inaugural weekend, Hancock said first responders in partnership with Christus staff will administer the vaccines. Going forward, Hancock said, nursing students and health care providers from other facilities will be invited to help administer vaccines.

Those who reserve an appointment at an upcoming Christus vaccine clinic are asked to follow the following guidelines when attending the clinic:

• Arrive no more than 15 minutes early and remain in your vehicle until 5 minutes before your appointment time.

• Only those being vaccinated may attend the clinic, except for those who need assistance. Those who cannot come alone to their appointment may bring one essential visitor.

• Wear loose fitting clothes, for ease in accessing the shoulder to administer the vaccine.

• Masks are required. Please bring a face mask.

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