AUSTIN – State Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) wrote a letter to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner, Dr. John Hellerstedt, expressing concern over the exclusion of rural hospitals and clinics in the first round of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“Never before has the disparity in access to healthcare between rural and urban communities been more apparent than throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ashby said. “As the State Representative serving a significant rural population, I felt compelled to speak out on behalf of my constituents and countless other rural Texans who have been fighting this virus just as long and just as hard as our neighbors living in urban areas.”
In the letter, Ashby recognizes the challenges rural hospitals and health care providers face in meeting the sub-zero storage and packaging requirements established by DSHS and Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company supplying the first-round vaccine. While some rural facilities might lack the resources necessary to meet these requirements, Ashby expressed his disappointment in the two entities—DSHS and Pfizer—for excluding all rural hospitals without considering any hospitals that might meet the requirements or have sufficient plans to distribute the vaccine throughout rural Texas to those that desire to be vaccinated.
“Rural Texans represent 15 percent of the State’s population and many rural counties are experiencing higher proportional surges than urban communities,” said Ashby. “While we were excluded in this first round, I’ve asked DSHS to work with Pfizer and other interested parties to rebalance the distribution of vaccines in the next round to prioritize the doctors, nurses, hospitals, and residents living in rural communities.”
Representative Ashby is in his fourth term as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Currently, Ashby is a member of the Public Education Committee, as well as the House Committees on Defense & Veterans Affairs.