Large quantities of COVID-19 vaccines, like the nearly 7,000 delivered last week to Guadalupe County, could be in the cards for the county’s future but there are no guarantees.
During an update of the vaccine situation in the state Thursday, a Texas Department of State Health Services official said authorities are constantly evaluating where vaccine needs are, but last week’s larger distribution here was an anomaly.
“Last week, we had a significant amount of vaccine, part of which was from the one-time take back from the federal program,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner and chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. “We tried to catch a lot of people up with one-time allocations. Moving forward, those allocations should level off.”
The one-time boost came from a return of about 126,000 first doses the federal government required states to set aside for the Federal Longterm Care Program, she said. Federal officials overestimated the number of doses needed for that program and allowed states to deliver the excess, Garcia said.
Texas expects to see about 400,000 doses allocated in week nine to more than 350 providers across the state, she said.
Garcia spoke to news reporters Thursday morning in the second of what could become a regularly scheduled update of the state’s vaccine status. She outlined some state plans and highlighted some of the wins Texas is experiencing in its attempt to vaccinate all who are interested.
Nearly 2.75 million doses of vaccine had been administered in Texas as of Thursday including the doses pumped into arms in Guadalupe County, Garcia said. More than 2.1 million people had received at least one dose and about 620,000 Texans had been fully vaccinated, she said.
Statewide, administrators of the vaccine continue to see “big increases” in older adults being vaccinated, Garcia said. More than 1 million doses have gone to people 65 and older, she said. That amounted to about 913,477 — or one in four — Texans in the age range being vaccinated.
“In line with the recommendation from our Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, we want to put an emphasis on vaccinating people who are at least 75 years since they are at the greatest risk,” Garcia said. “We did talk about some strategies that could be used to better serve our population.”
Some of those strategies include distribution sites setting aside doses for seniors, scheduling special times for them, helping them more forward with sorts of “fast track” lanes at distribution sites and more, she said. With phase 1B including people over age 16 with medical conditions, it might be difficult for administers of the vaccine to determine who is eligible at the distribution sites, Garcia said.
Officials are counting on members of the public to play fairly, she said.
“For those in the healthcare workers or 1B definition, we don’t ask people to give us their whole medical history or give us a doctor’s note; we do take them at their word,” Garcia said. “We know there might be some people who are misrepresenting their health condition but, at the end of the day, we want people to realize we have a limited amount of vaccine.”
That is not to say that if an elderly person doesn’t keep an appointment or if extra doses somehow come available at a distributors’ location that the doses should go to waste, she said. Authorities would prefer the vaccine goes to good use rather than sticking strictly to age and health restrictions.
“At the end of the day, we want vaccine to go into arms,” Garcia said. “We don’t want it to go into the trash.”
Getting more vaccine to rural areas is a continued focus, she said. Those in charge believe that will come with targeted distribution and regional partners working together to set up hubs and mass inoculation sites, Garcia said.
DSHS personnel are working diligently with their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention colleagues to get more doses to Texas in hopes of inoculating the entire state, she said.
“With regard to what we think we would need to be able to vaccinate everyone fully, I would love for us easily to be seeing a million doses a week coming to the state,” Garcia said. “Obviously, that depends on the supply chain and what that could mean coming to the state each week.”