Earlier this winter, we reported that Dallas County may reach herd immunity by June. Vaccine production and distribution has continually ramped up, and we may be even closer to emerging from the pandemic. The Texas Department of State Health Services announced today that on Monday, March 29, all adults will be eligible for the vaccine statewide.
Everyone who falls under the FDA’s emergency use authorizations for the vaccines (16 years old for Pfizer or 18 years old for the other versions) will be able to sign up and get their shot because of increased supply and efforts to get the word out.
“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 in a release. “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.”
The vaccine calendar has consistently moved up throughout the pandemic. Last year, predictions said this spring may be the first time anyone gets a vaccine. When the state began shipping shots to local governments and hospitals in December, authorities said it would likely be the summer before the masses were able to be vaccinated. Priority was given to healthcare workers, the elderly, and residents with a chronic condition that made them more vulnerable to the virus. But here we are in the first week of spring, and Texans have something to celebrate.
Despite the good news, there are still worrying signs amid the vaccination data. A Marist poll from March 11 found that 49 percent of Republican men will not take the vaccine. Around a third of Republican women and Independent women and men also said they would not take the vaccine, either. Democratic men and women said they would not take the vaccine at six and 14 percent respectively. These figures will need to change in order to achieve herd immunity and get life back to normal.
Meanwhile, the racial disparities that have plagued every data point of the pandemic remain present with vaccines. White Texans are more than six times as likely to be vaccinated that Black Texans, and twice as likely to be vaccinated as Hispanic Texans, according to the Texas Tribune.
Texas as a state isn’t doing much better, despite the vaccine improvements. CDC data say that Texas is among the worst states when it comes to vaccine distribution, with only 33,954 doses given for every 100,000 people. It is joined by many other southern states, Puerto Rico, and the Federated States of Micronesia at the bottom of the heap. For comparison, Texas neighbor New Mexico has distributed 52,537 doses per 100,000 people. So far, Texas has given one dose to at least 6 million people, and 3 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The state is launching a website to allow everyone to register for a shot through public health providers, which can identify clinics hosted by the state or any participating local health department. That will allow patients to be notified when appointments become available. There will also be a toll-free number to register those without internet access.
Check here for more information about the registration system when it is up and running.