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Texas Care Van Program Supports COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

Days from holding a large-scale, invitation-only COVID-19 vaccination event, April Loveless recently spent hours contacting more than 250 eligible patients to confirm they could be there.

As program coordinator at Corpus Christi’s Amistad Community Health Center, a nonprofit clinic, Loveless oversees distribution of the vaccine, which until recently had been available to very limited groups of people such as health care workers. Because of the vaccine’s short shelf life, she can’t afford to waste doses meant for patient’s arms. So, she called every patient on her list to ensure their place in line.

“With this vaccine, you only have a certain amount of time before it spoils,” Loveless says. “We want to make sure everything is organized.”

Her clinic, which serves about 7,000 low-income and uninsured people, has partnered with the Caring Foundation and its Care Van Program to set up mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Corpus Christi and nearby Robstown. The Care Van is used to transport vaccine doses to inoculation locations. As patients arrive, Loveless registers them and two health care workers vaccinate them. The team can inoculate about 100 people an hour.

“In the last week and a half, we’ve distributed 1,000 vaccines,” Loveless says. “The Care Van helps me to get out there and help people. Without that van, I don’t know what I would have done.”

More than 282,000 people live in Nueces County, where Corpus Christi is the county seat. So far, less than 8% of county residents have received at least one of the two COVID-19 vaccine doses needed for immunity.

"We’re getting to people who need our services. That’s what this partnership has really helped us do.”

Inoculations mostly have been limited to health care providers and support staff and nursing home residents. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently advised states to begin expanding eligibility to people age 65 and older.

Learn more from the Texas Department of State Health Services about the vaccine rollout. 

Get information from BCBSTX about COVID-19 and related coverage. 

Loveless says many Nueces County residents, including her patients, are eager to get vaccinated, and her office phone rarely stops ringing.

For more than two decades, the Care Van Program has supported communities statewide by helping administer more than 1.3 million CDC-recommended vaccinations, as well as dental screenings and health education and testing services. Vans go to schools, churches and community centers to reduce health care disparities and geographic barriers in Texas. Helping offer COVID-19 vaccinations is becoming part of that outreach.

“Our partnership with the Caring Foundation and the Care Van has made a big difference,” says Dr. Eric Baggerman, Amistad’s chief executive officer. “Our outreach has improved and we’re getting to people who need our services. That’s what this partnership has really helped us do.”

Amistad currently is the Care Van Program’s only partner administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our partnership with Amistad is important given the serious implications of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sheena Payne, BCBSTX’s director of community investments and Caring Foundation executive director. “Their ability to deliver the vaccine to home health care workers allows us to help meet the needs of a vulnerable population in underserved and rural communities in Texas. So, we are happy to partner with an organization like Amistad to support and nurture meaningful public health endeavors across Texas.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is the lead sponsor of the Caring Foundation of Texas. The Care Van Program is the foundation’s primary program.

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