Dallas County launched a vaccine registration tool this week for healthcare workers and other groups at higher risk for contracting the virus, allowing residents in the state’s 1A and 1B tiers to sign up to receive their dosage. There is still some confusion about how to get on the list and when the vaccine will be available for residents without underlying health conditions. So let’s focus on the first tiers.
It is important to note that the county’s registration tool will only steer you to clinics and hospitals where Dallas County Health and Human Services staffers operate, such as Parkland. You still need to contact your own provider if you would prefer to receive it through them. In the three weeks since the vaccine arrived, Dallas County has administered 85,500 doses to most healthcare workers, according to Dr. Philip Huang, the head of Dallas County Health and Human Services. That’s 3.2 percent of the 2.6 million people who live in the county, showing how long a road ahead we have.
Meanwhile, in just two days, 50,000 people signed up for the registry, including healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities. But even with the high demand for the vaccines, fewer than half of the doses have been distributed statewide. State officials are encouraging providers to speed up the process and get more people vaccinated before the vaccines spoil, the Dallas Morning News reports.
The two tiers of patients currently eligible for the vaccine includes paid and unpaid workers in hospital settings, which include everyone from physicians down to staff who are helping out clinicians. Same deal for long-term care staff. EMS providers, home health workers, and long-term care facility residents are also in the top tier. It tumbles from there: outpatient care staff, freestanding ER and urgent care employees, community pharmacy staff, public employees who work in emergency settings, school nurses, and “last responders” such as funeral workers.
Phase 1B includes people 65 years of age and older. Texans older than 16 who have at least one chronic condition that puts them at higher risk for the virus are also eligible to receive the vaccine. Hang tight if you’re in this tier. You’re a priority, but 1A goes first. The county encourages eligible residents to sign up through the registry and reach out to your physician; you’ll have a better chance at receiving a dose quicker than if you relied on one or the other.
Vaccine availability is limited for the general public, and hospitals are simultaneously dealing with more COVID-19 patients than ever and an unprecedented vaccine distribution. “We’re in this together, and we’re asking folks to be mindful of an organized approach. Health care workers are moving as fast as possible to get shots in arms,” said Ted Shaw, the president and CEO of the Texas Hospital Association.
There is also the matter of the vaccine’s distribution. As it stands, there are few clinics south of Interstate 30 and east of Interstate 45, leaving an enormous swath of the county underserved. Here:
County Judge Clay Jenkins told the Commissioner’s Court yesterday morning that there are plans in the works for a “mega” vaccine center in southern Dallas. That could include Fair Park in South Dallas, the University of North Texas at Dallas near Redbird, or the Forester Athletic Center near Pleasant Grove. For now, the residents in the south—who have a lower life expectancy due to higher incidence of chronic illnesses, partly because a lack of access to healthcare services—must head north to receive their vaccines.
The Texas Hospital Association has provided some guidance about accessing the vaccine:
- Do your research. Go online and check your doctor, local hospital, local pharmacy or local health department’s website and/or social media for vaccine availability information.
- Be patient. Know that vaccines are only available in limited quantities and that vaccinations for certain populations, especially health care providers and first responders, take precedence.
- Check your eligibility. The Texas Department of State Health Services’ vaccine web page explains who is eligible to receive a vaccine and when.
- Understand there is regional variability. Some regions may have vaccine available while others may not.
- Just show up. Please do not arrive at your health care providers office looking for the vaccine or information.
- Assume your local provide has vaccine available or that you can be vaccinated right away.”