As the supply of COVID-19 vaccines catches up with demand, local efforts are shifting toward community outreach.

“Understand their point of view, but also explain that it can keep them from getting COVID,” internal medicine specialist Dr. James Otto told a group Friday at the Nacogdoches Senior Center, where some in attendance were concerned about relatives who refused vaccinations. “They’re not just doing it for themselves, but doing it for other people.”

As of Thursday, just over 22% of local residents 16 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the Nacogdoches County Emergency Management Office. Community clinics held at the County Expo and Civic Center have been averaging 1,600 people a day.

But as the percentage of vaccinated people increases, “It won’t be 1,600 people a day,” said Nacogdoches Fire Chief Keith Kiplinger, who is in charge of logistics for vaccine clinics here.

“It might be 25 shots after church on Sunday or 100 during the week,” he said, adding that public outreach is an integral part of the plan.

Approved Tuesday by City Council, an interlocal agreement with Stephen F. Austin State University will provide not only nursing students to administer vaccines during the summer, but two social work students and a translator for community outreach. The city will provide up to $225,000 to fund the 15 student positions and faculty supervision. A similar agreement is in the works with the county to help reach residents outside city limits. City leaders say they plan to seek FEMA funding to reimburse those costs.

As of this week, the Civic Center has hosted six mass vaccination clinics, with another scheduled Wednesday, April 14. Vaccines can be scheduled by visiting tinyurl.com/VacNac or by calling 936-305-8488.

For those experiencing symptoms, Curative is offering free COVID-19 testing in the Brookshire Brothers parking lot, 1216 South St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The testing is open to walk-ups, but appointments are recommended by visiting curative.com/covid-testing. The test is self-collected with an oral swab, and results are provided in 24 to 48 hours.

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