Distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses has been an ordeal, but state officials are trying to make it as equitable an endeavor as possible.
While densely populated urban centers have received larger supplies of vaccines in the several weeks of distribution, the Texas Department of State Health Services is trying to get more doses into underserved communities and outside urban areas, said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner. Federal providers of the vaccine are set to send a larger number of doses to the states next week, Garcia said.
“What we’re trying to do with this one-time supply of extra doses next week is to allocate them to some of the suburban counties to get them back on par,” she said.
More than 2 million Texans had received doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday afternoon, Garcia said. Of those 2 million, about 1.7 million people received at least one dose and about 370,000 had both shots, she said.
“That is a remarkable accomplishment,” Garcia said. “It means that nearly one out of every 13 Texans at least 16 years of age have had a vaccine. But, more importantly for those Texans 65 and older, that’s more than one out of every six Texans over 65 have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“That’s a huge, huge win for us here in the state.”
Providers took nearly five weeks to administer a million doses, she said. In the very next two weeks, another million people had gotten at least one shot, Garcia said.
The numbers are getting better but not nearly quickly enough, she said.
“We’ve had a great start, but I don’t have to tell you that there’s still a lot of need out there and not enough vaccine out there for everyone who wants it,” Garcia said.
The state agency expects 333,000 vaccine doses delivered in the coming week, with an additional 385,000 the following week, Garcia said.
Texans then can expect the higher number each week for the next few weeks, she said.
State leaders are determining when to start rolling out vaccines to the next phase of recipients and who those people are, Garcia said. Getting doses in the arms of those who want them in the Phase 1A and 1B categories remains a priority, she said.
Also important is targeting the hardest hit demographics of COVID-19 patients with equitable distribution, Garcia said.
“It is absolutely a priority for our expert vaccine panel, it is absolutely a priority at the Department of State Health Services and for me personally it is a priority,” she said. “Our local partners play a really critical role in this. They know their communities best and they know how to reach those [underserved] populations.”
What’s next largely depends on how much vaccine federal agencies steer to Texas, Garcia said. Officials continue talking it all out and deciding what’s best for whom and who needs what most, she said.
Meanwhile, everyone in the state needs to continue taking precautions, wearing face coverings, social distancing and being careful to limit possible exposure to the virus.
“We still have a way to go,” Garcia said, “and we’ll get there together.”