The city of Amarillo, Texas, and its metro area is leading the nation in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Two other Texas cities, Lubbock and El Paso are not far behind. Texas, Michigan, and Florida are among the top states leading in vaccinations for the coronavirus.

This information was released by a small, independent non-profit, Covid Act Now. The organization works with university research centers to provide up-to-date COVID-19 data throughout the United States. This information comes at the same time that new COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the area.

According to Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, the key reason for success has been the establishment of a large walk-in vaccination clinic. The data shows that 11.2 percent of individuals in the area have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 1 percent have received the second dose. The city is vaccinating those in the Phase 1A and 1B groups, determined by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Those eligible include healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people 65 years old and older, as well as people 18 years of age and older who have at least one chronic medical condition. The clinic is able to deliver thousands of vaccinations a day.

“A vaccination clinic of this magnitude is something Amarillo has never done before,” Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said in the release. “The City of Amarillo Public Health Department understood the mission: vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. They accomplished that by transforming the Amarillo Civic Center into an area-wide health clinic that is providing a crucial vaccine to thousands of people a day. What has been accomplished in such a short time is truly remarkable. This is one of the primary steps in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and I would encourage our citizens who meet the current vaccination criteria to please get vaccinated and to take advantage of this vital public resource.”

Amarillo’s public health department opened the Amarillo Civic Center Complex on Dec. 30. City officials and health professionals believe this will help decrease the hospitalization rate in Amarillo. According to Texas DSHS, currently, the city has a 16.7 percent hospitalization rate. The rate marked the 99th consecutive day the area has been above the 15 percent threshold, as of Monday. The walk-in clinic will continue its hours as long as the supply of vaccines last. The area has been above 15 percent rate since mid-October, with the rate going above 40 percent in November.

Using the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, most area businesses and restaurants remain at 50 percent capacity. When the area is able to achieve seven consecutive days at or less than 15 percent, restaurants, office buildings, gyms, and libraries, will be able to expand occupancy limits to 75 percent

Amarillo is a city of about 200,000 residents. This kind of distribution plan may not work as well in large cities and vaccine supplies are not keeping up with demand in many areas. It looks as though the walk-in clinic model for the general public who qualify is an efficient one. Currently, the city is only administering the Moderna vaccine. Clinic hours are limited to three days this week. The clinic is open Wednesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Amarillo City Transit offers free rides to those in need of transportation. This model has to be better than that of many cities which require phoning a hotline for appointments and searching around town for a location offering vaccinations.