HOUSTON — The State of Texas is opening up the coronavirus vaccine to all adults on Monday.
Some groups will still be prioritized, however, says The Texas Department of State Health Services:
"DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old or older when scheduling appointments and accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether or not they have an appointment, by immediately moving them to the front of the line. "
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Also launching will be a new website from the state's health department that will allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers.
"The public will be able to enroll in the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler to identify upcoming vaccine clinics hosted by DSHS or a participating local health department and be notified when new clinics and appointments become available."
People can also continue to find providers though the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine.
Get more details in the state's official release below.
DSHS directs providers to continue to prioritize older adults
All adults will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas beginning Monday, March 29. The Texas Department of State Health Services expects vaccine supplies to increase next week, and providers in multiple parts of the state have made great strides in vaccinating people in the current priority groups. The state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended opening vaccination to everyone who falls under the current Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations to protect as many Texans as possible.
“We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. “As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death – such as older adults.”
DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old or older when scheduling appointments and accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether or not they have an appointment, by immediately moving them to the front of the line. That will ensure vaccination of anyone 80 or older with as small a burden on themselves as possible.
Also next week, DSHS will launch a website to allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers. The public will be able to enroll in the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler to identify upcoming vaccine clinics hosted by DSHS or a participating local health department and be notified when new clinics and appointments become available. People can continue to find additional providers though the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine.
Online registration will be the best option for most people. For those for whom that is not an option, DSHS will launch a toll-free number to provide assistance making an appointment with a participating provider or locating another provider that has vaccine available.
To date, Texas has administered more than 9.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, equating to more than 6 million people with at least one dose and more than 3 million fully vaccinated. Most vaccines are authorized for people 18 years old and older; the FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in people 16 and older.
"Opening vaccine eligibility to every adult is a key milestone in our fight against COVID-19. The onus is now on each of us to do our part," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a tweet Tuesday.
“We know there are a lot of people out there who are younger that really want it,” Dr. Philip Keiser said.
Dr. Keiser is the Health Authority for Galveston County where about 18% of the population’s now vaccinated.
“Initially, we had all these waitlists and all these other things to try and manage the demand,” he said. “But I can tell you, for about the past three or four weeks we’ve had to work to fill up all of our appointments.”
Some Texans have driven long distances to get their first dose in counties with low demand.
The big question will people be able to get their second dose closer to home? Hidalgo says it’s too soon to tell.
“Our availability of vaccination sites depends on supply,” she said.
Harris County received about 9,000 doses a week for several weeks. It was only this month that the county got a boost of 1,000 more.
Texas counties don’t yet know how many vaccines are heading their way.
“If you’re not on a waitlist, sign up. We’re going to get people invitations as quickly as we can,” Keiser said. “I think a lot of younger people have also been reluctant because they think, well it won’t be my turn until July. But if this works the way we expect it to, we can expect to work through a lot of people in the next two to three weeks. So we’re telling people sign up now so we can get you in next week.”