South Texas border congressman criticizes state for ‘slow’ rollout of COVID-19 vaccines

Coronavirus

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar wants more private entities to help distribute

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered on Jan. 5, 2021, during a free community clinic held in Mercedes, Texas, offered by Hidalgo County. (Courtesy Photo)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Since the coronavirus crisis began, there has been criticism that resources sent by federal officials to the State of Texas have been slow in filtering down to local municipalities, towns and residents. This included COVID-19 stimulus funds and tests. On Friday, a South Texas border congressman accused state officials of lagging in vaccine distributions.

“They certainly have to do a better job,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said in a Facebook live news conference on Friday. “The role of the state is to roll out vaccines and to provide them free. The state quite honestly has not done what they are supposed to do.”

Cuellar said the state has only distributed 44% of the vaccines so far received.

In a call with Border Report on Friday evening, he said the Texas Division of Emergency Management and state health officials should involve more private sector entities that have the capacity, health care workers, space and specialized super-cold storage equipment to more quickly distribute vaccine doses to the masses.

“I personally want the private sector involved. We can do a lot more. We can’t just depend on health department,” Cuellar said via phone. “The more vaccine places, the better.”

In his hometown of Laredo, Texas, he said city officials received 600 vaccine doses and one local hospital got 2,500.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera got on the video call and asked Cuellar to intervene on behalf of his small, rural South Texas border county.

“I realize this is not so much a federal issue, as it is a state issue, but we have approximately 70,000 people in our county. We have received 700 vaccines. That’s all we’ve gotten. That’s really nothing. We’ve had people calling daily in the hundreds. Is there any way possible to get more vaccines sent to us?” Vera asked.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is seen meeting with state emergency and health officials on COVID vaccine distributions on Jan. 8, 2021. (Courtesy Photo)

On Friday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas, received a briefing and met with leaders of TDEM regarding the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines statewide. He met with State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, TDEM Chief Nim Kidd, Dr. John Zerwas, a member of the State’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, and DSHS Associate Commissioner of Laboratory & Infectious Diseases Imelda Garcia, Cornyn’s office said.

 “Amid all the tragedies brought on by this pandemic, the emergency management and health care workers in Texas continue to give me great hope,” Cornyn said. “Thank you to all who are fighting COVID-19, from Dr. Hellerstedt and Chief Kidd all the way to the nurses administering the vaccines to the custodians keeping health care facilities clean and safe. Brighter days are ahead for Texas, but in the meantime, we must continue to wear masks, socially distance, and help our fellow Texans get through this together.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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