From fighting fires to protecting the community from COVID-19, the New Waverly Fire Department is stepping up to take care of its own.
The New Waverly Fire Department has worked alongside Walker County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Butch Davis to ensure that anyone, no matter their ability to make it to a hub, should have the opportunity to be vaccinated.
“Everybody that wants it, should have access to it. In our community, we’re a long ways from any major hubs, so we wanted to make it available locally,” said Jimmy Williams, district chief at the New Waverly Fire Department. “If you look at the survival rate, depending on which statistics, it’s somewhere from 99 to 99.75%. So if we vaccinate from 500 to a thousand people, then statistically, we’ve potentially saved two lives, so it’s worth it right there.”
Residents and employees in Walker County Emergency Services District No. 2 can now be vaccinated through the New Waverly Fire Department at one of their drive-thru clinics or through a home-visit, if qualified.
Originally offering the Moderna vaccine, the NWFD has followed in Huntsville Memorial Hospital’s decision to make the switch to the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which they will use moving forward, due to its ease of use in small rural communities.
“Realistically, whatever is available, we’ll make it work, but the Johnson & Johnson is a good choice for us. It is something we can get out to the community and get that level of immunity built up quicker because it’s only one dose and people within a couple of weeks begin to build some kind of immunity to the virus,” Williams said. Those in need of their second dose of the Moderna shot will still be able to get it through NWFD.
The one-and-done shot has been especially helpful in working with NWISD to administer the vaccine to school staff and their families, as well as the dozen home-visits the firefighters do per week, bringing the vaccination directly to homebound seniors, their caregivers and anyone else living in the household.
“We especially wanted to focus on our folks that are most vulnerable. Our elderly community may or may not be able to travel to a clinic in Huntsville, so that was a big priority,” Williams said, adding that the home-visit program enabled a 97 year-old resident to be vaccinated last week.
The home-visit vaccinations were modeled after the state’s Save Our Seniors Initiative, challenging Texas communities to find a way to vaccinate the elderly that weren’t able to travel to a traditional clinic, even the drive-thru clinics set up at the New Waverly fire station. Hopefully, making the vaccine more available and convenient to the community will strengthen its appeal to hesitant or discouraged parties.
NWFD started off with a small drive-thru clinic at the New Waverly Fire Station in early March, distributing a meager amount of left over vaccines from a vaccination event in Huntsville. Since then, they have continued to host events every week, distributing 450 to 500 vaccines at last week’s clinic through their partnership with the Walker County OEM and Huntsville Memorial Hospital providing the vaccines.
“The way it is right now, you can take your lunch break, and within your lunchtime, you can eat a sandwich and still get vaccinated and get back to work. It’s not everywhere that you can do that. If we make it that easy, hopefully more people will get vaccinated and we’ll save more lives,” Williams said.
As eligibility opened up to all adults over the age of 18 locally on Monday, Williams says the demand will determine whether or not NWFD will continue to offer the vaccination events.
“We’ll see over the next two days, if those numbers start to drop, that’ll be an indication that maybe we’re getting the job done in New Waverly. We’ll use that to plan do we need a future event if we still have people that need the vaccine,” Williams said.
Homebound senior citizens and disabled individuals within Walker County Emergency Services District No. 2 can call to schedule a home vaccination visit by calling the New Waverly Fire Department non-emergency number at (936)344-6911.