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See how Port Arthur is expanding efforts to distribute vaccine to those in need

The Port Arthur Public Health Department is trying to make it easier for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 to be vaccinated.

The department, which once required residents 65 and older to register online, is now allowing them to walk up and get vaccinated.

“If they have registered on the vaccine.beaumonttexas.gov, they can show up with there registration number,” said Judith Smith, director of the PAPHD.

“We were focusing on healthcare providers and those 65 and older and that is still our focus. With individuals 65 and older, many of them are not able to register. They are not going to be able to do that. If they are 65 and older with underlying health conditions, we are going to provide the service. Many of them have, but if they have not pre-registered, we will go on and see them.”

Smith said the registration process can take longer than people think.

“People were saying that they registered weeks ago and never got a call,” she said. “It may be a while before you get a call, because people were registering since Jan. 26, which is when this website first went up.”

The city has discontinued their website for registering for the vaccine. Smith said people were getting confused because the county and the city had two separate sites. Now, those needing to pre-register can do so at vaccine.beaumonttexas.gov.

The county set up the site, which allows users to select the most convenient location.

“If people have registered and they come, we decided to see them,” Smith said. “If they are 65 and older, why would they come up here to register, just to come back at a later date.”

The health department is distributing vaccines out of Bob Bowers Civic Center. Smith said the civic center is hosting an event Thursday, which will halt vaccine distribution for a day, but said the health department will resume vaccinations at the civic center on Friday.

“There is a process when you are at the civic center that includes a lot of changing seats,” she said. “We will have a whole little section for those in wheel chairs so that they don’t have to play musical chairs.”

The state is still in Phase 1B regarding those eligible for vaccinations. It includes people 16 years or older with at least one chronic illness that can make them more susceptible to COVID-19, such as cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies; solid organ transplantation; obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher); pregnancy; sickle cell disease; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The state has not released any guidelines for when Texas will enter Phase 2, which would increase range of people eligible for vaccinations.