Fort Bend commissioners approve negotiations for vaccine outreach

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 7/6/21

The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court has authorized county staff to move forward with contract negotiations with Next Wave Strategies, LLC. to help bolster the county’s vaccination rate. …

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Fort Bend commissioners approve negotiations for vaccine outreach

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The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court has authorized county staff to move forward with contract negotiations with Next Wave Strategies, LLC. to help bolster the county’s vaccination rate. While many people are vaccinated throughout Fort Bend County, staff said they are concerned about the vaccination rate leveling out.

“(Fort Bend County Health Authority Dr. Jacqueline Minter) gave a glowing report about our vaccination rate,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage. “But our vaccination rate in the east side for the county is dragging down the whole and what we’ve been doing is not working.”

County Judge KP George said Minter’s report indicated about 60% of the county’s population age 12 and up has been vaccinated, but he expressed concern about the 40% that have not yet been inoculated against COVID-19. Pockets of unvaccinated folks are scattered throughout the county, especially in rural and low-income areas, court members said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers expressed doubt about whether a public information campaign was necessary.

“I guess I’m at a little bit of a loss,” Meyers said. “It’s not as if people aren’t aware that we have vaccines available. If you go to any drugstore or any food store that has a (pharmacy) in it, there’s a sign on the front door, you know, ‘Walk-ins for vaccines are available.’”

According to the request for proposals issued by the county, the project would include research to verify why county residents had not gotten the vaccine yet, marketing to ensure people are aware of vaccine programs available throughout the county, and other steps to improve vaccination rates.

County staff said vaccination rates may be affected by income, transportation and language barriers.

County staff said that data provided by Minter in a report indicated that Prestage’s precinct was behind on vaccinations. Staff also said that during the negotiation of the contract, the strategy for outreach and determining where and whom to target a public education campaign toward would be important in the negotiation process. Once a contract was prepared, it would not be finalized until reviewed and approved by the commissioners court.

Meyers said he would like to see that information prior to approving the expenditure of American Rescue Plan funds toward any sort of campaign.

“Anecdotally – and I don’t have a lot of statistics other than anecdotally – you know, people who are not vaccinated generally are people who, like some people in my office, had the virus and don’t need a shot or they don’t want to take an experimental vaccine. They don’t know what the implications or long-term impact is going to be.”

Commissioners also approved a change order for the construction of the Fort Bend County Public Safety Annex which is under construction near the intersection of FM 1463 and FM 1093 in Fulshear. The change to the construction contract adds about $135,000 to the contract making the total project cost a bit less than $4.7 million. The location for the site was identified in a joint effort between the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and Meyers.

About $94,000 was also allotted to a contract with Ryan Construction Services, LLC for fencing at the county jail, bringing the cost of that project up to about $480,000.

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