The county’s vaccination hub at Walter Hall Park will close May 1, county officials announced Tuesday.
The hub, which opened in January, has helped hundreds of thousands of Galveston County residents to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
But health officials said lagging demand and increased vaccination options have decreased the need for the drive-through hub. For the next two weeks, the hub will provide only second vaccine doses to people who received first doses there.
Other people will be directed to vaccination clinics managed by the University of Texas Medical Branch or the Galveston County Health District, officials said.
“We always planned on, but we didn’t know when, moving vaccinations back to clinics and doctors’ offices and pharmacies, where they can handle it,” Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said. “This is a very good thing.”
The hub is closing ahead of schedule, officials said. Originally, officials expected the hub to be open through the end of May.
As of Tuesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported that 34.8 percent of people over the age of 16 in Galveston County were fully vaccinated. That’s ahead of the state rate of 29.1 percent of the population.
Tens of thousands more people are expected to complete their course of vaccinations in coming days. County officials believe the countywide vaccination rates are higher than what the state reports indicate because of reporting lags.
Demand has waned so much the health district and the medical branch asked the state for a one-week delay in vaccine shipments because their current supplies haven’t been depleted and could last another two weeks, based on current demand.
The county is so well stocked a person could schedule a vaccination and receive a dose in less than 15 minutes, officials said.
The hub was created in January after state officials altered plans for statewide vaccine distribution.
In the lead-up to the public release of the vaccine, health providers had expected shipments to be sent to individual providers. Demand for fast distribution of vaccine doses, however, led Gov. Greg Abbott to order the creation of vaccination hubs that could deliver thousands of doses in a single day.
The county, in collaboration with the health district and the medical branch, set up a drive-through hub at the League City park. The park was chosen because of its easy access to traffic.
At its height, more than 4,000 cars were going through the hub on a single day. In recent days, only a few hundred people have been scheduled for the first doses at the park, officials said.
Closing of the vaccination hub doesn’t mean the end of vaccinations in the county, said Dr. Phillip Keiser, Galveston County’s local health authority. Instead, smaller vaccination events in communities where fewer people have been vaccinated will become a greater point of emphasis, Keiser said.
Some of the lowest vaccinated areas in Galveston County included the unincorporated areas near Alvin and Santa Fe in the west part of the county and around Bacliff and San Leon on the shores of Galveston Bay.
Still, closure of the hub was a cause for celebration about the progress the county has made toward its vaccination goals.
“Partially, this is mission accomplished,” Keiser said. “But it’s not that we’re stopping. We’re changing.”
Walter Hall Park will reopen to the public on May 7. There will be a delay in reopening the park as the county removes tents and performs other maintenance after the hub closes.