News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health & Wellness

What You Need To Know About Texas' COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

A nurse wearing gloves and a face shield administers a shot to a nurse who works on the COVID-19 team at Parkland Hospital.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
TonyChris Nnaka, RN, is one of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, on Dec. 15.

The supply of COVID-19 vaccines continues to grow in Texas, despite issues with Johnson & Johnson’s formula. And all Texans are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Here's what you need to know about the plan to distribute vaccine doses and how you can get one.

For months, many Texans have felt in the dark about where and when they’d be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But on March 29, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that restrictions had been lifted and that all Texans were now eligible to receive vaccine doses.

One of the reasons Texas health officials have expanded the number of individuals "eligible" for the COVID-19 vaccine is increased supply.

As an example, for the week of April 19, the federal government allocated more than 1.9 million doses of the vaccine to the state of Texas. That figure is lower than the 2.5 million doses allocated at the beginning of April.

The overall number of doses doled out by the federal government did take a slight hit when health officials decided to “pause” the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine due to issues with blood clotting. Those same officials plan to meet on April 23 to discuss whether the J&J vaccine can be distributed once again.

In a recent interview with a DSHS spokesman, KERA was told that they’re optimistic that the vaccine supply will increase again. DSHS has also announced a media campaign to encourage more individuals to get vaccinated and series of 22 pop-up events to get folks vaccinated in hard-hit areas.

As of April 21, Texas DSHS has reported that 10,197,092 people in Texas have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A grand total of 16,178,433 doses have been administered. State Health Services also reports that 23,521,675 doses of the vaccine have been allocated to providers across the state.

Where Do I Go To Get Vaccinated?

EwmyYkCWQAENbqc.jpg

The first step is reaching out to your county or a nearby county to get vaccinated at a 'large vaccination hub. Those hubs are getting the bulk of the doses handed out by Texas DSHS. (Find your Hub)

Many places no longer have a waitlist. Some are requiring advanced appointments, but some are taking walk-in patients.

You can also visit the DSHS Vaccine Information page for more options.

DSHS is also launching a website to allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers. According to DSHS, "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."

If you're still without an appointment after those steps, you should begin checking out Texas DSHS' weekly COVID-19 Vaccine Allocations. This web page will tell you how many vaccines are being sent to each individual provider in the state. And this will let you know which providers got vaccines, and how many.

If you spot a place near you, doesn’t show up at the hospital or clinic looking for a vaccine. Instead, visit the providers’ website for information about vaccine availability.

If you can’t find the information you need on a provider's website, give the provider a call and ask them to get you placed on a waiting list. But you should know that these providers have been flooded with calls and may not be able to provide a date for the vaccination.

What About These So-Called ‘Large Vaccination Hubs’?

Residents in Southeast Dallas board a bus to Fair Park to get their vaccine at Dallas' drive-in mega vaccine site, on March, 16, 2021.
Keren Carrión | KERA News
Residents in Southeast Dallas board a bus to Fair Park to get their vaccine at Dallas' drive-in mega vaccine site, on March, 16, 2021.

Texas DSHS and officials in counties across the state have shifted plans for the vaccine rollout multiple times. Their number one goal has always been to vaccinate as many people as possible. But throughout the rollout, a limited supply of vaccines has affected their planning. Right now though, they’re focusing on large vaccination hubs.

That means if you’re looking to get a vaccine, you should probably try to get on whichever registration list is associated with your nearby ‘large vaccination hub.’ (link) As of April 19, slightly more than 400,000 doses of the vaccine were sent to ‘mass vaccination hubs’ to be administered during the week.

Including the hubs, DSHS is allocating 733,090 first doses to 381 providers in 119 counties.

DSHS is ordering 686,640 second-doses for people vaccinated a few weeks ago. An estimated 500,000 additional first and second doses are expected to be available to pharmacy locations, federally qualified health centers, and dialysis centers as allocated directly by the federal government.

Can I Travel After Getting A Vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. (Link)

Unvaccinated people are still advised to avoid unnecessary travel.

The new guidance says:

— Fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining. People should still wear a mask, socially distance, and avoid crowds, the agency says.

For international travel, the agency says vaccinated people do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, though some destinations may require it.

— Vaccinated people should still get a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the U.S., and be tested 3 to 5 days after returning. They do not need to quarantine. The agency noted the potential introduction of virus variants and differences in vaccine coverage around the world for the cautious guidance on overseas travel.

Am I ‘Eligible’ For A COVID-19 Vaccine?

ExK9JBZWgAEsIkZ.jpg

Anyone over 16 is eligible to get vaccinated in Texas.

Front-line healthcare workers and employees and residents at long-term care facilities have been eligible since the beginning.

Are you 65 years old or older? If so, then you’ve eligible since December 2020.

People with a chronic health condition and educators were also among the groups eligible before vaccine distribution opened to the vast majority of Texans.

For more specific questions, check out Texas DSHS' COVID-19 Vaccine Information site (here).

Where Can I Get A Vaccine In North Texas?

Collin County

Dallas County

Denton County

Ellis County

Johnson County

Parker County

Tarrant County

How Were Choices Made About Who Gets The Vaccine And When?

guidingprincipals-fb-ig.jpg

In an attempt to effectively deploy the COVID-19 vaccine, Texas DSHS created a 17-person committee called the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP). The EVAP helped DSHS identify which groups should be vaccinated first, and how much of the vaccine regions in the state should receive.

Some of the principles that guided the group, according to DSHS, were an equitable distribution across urban and rural communities, protecting healthcare and front-line workers, and minimizing death to already-vulnerable populations.

How Does The Vaccine Work?

Since December, there have been three vaccines with emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to help stop the coronavirus pandemic.

The first two vaccines to receive the 'thumbs up' were manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer. Both of those started getting administered in Texas during December 2020. But the latest to receive emergency approval is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson — though distribution of that vaccine has currently been paused.

The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are given in two doses. The first dose is given to an individual by a doctor or pharmacist, and afterward, the vaccinated person will be monitored for about a half-hour to ensure there isn’t an allergic reaction to the shot. Then, about three weeks later, the individual will return to receive the second dose. The two doses are about 95% effective in protecting people from catching COVID-19. But it’s still unknown whether or not someone who has previously had the coronavirus can carry the virus after vaccination.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine only requires one shot. And though you cannot compare the three vaccines to one another directly, health experts say the J&J vaccine was found to be 66% protective against moderate and severe disease overall worldwide, and 72% protective against such cases in the U.S. Health experts say the efficacy of the three vaccines is virtually identical.

How Much Does The Vaccination Cost?

The federal government has purchased hundreds of millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials have ensured folks that they can receive their COVID-19 vaccine for free, regardless of insurance or other medical qualifications. So, in theory, you can get the vaccine for free anywhere it’s available. But as the number of providers increases, you will want to make sure you’ve been given documentation about the costs.

If you have insurance, the vaccine provider you choose to visit will ask you for your insurance information. But if you don’t have that information with you, the cost of the vaccine should still be free.

Are Undocumented Residents Able To Get Vaccinated?

There has been a lot of back and forth about who is "eligible" to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Each county in the state has specific requirements.

For example, in Dallas County residents will need to show a photo ID and prove residency in Dallas County. The photo ID does not have to be a U.S. or Texas ID, and can even be a work ID, but if the ID doesn’t show residency, residents will need to prove that through a utility bill or similar document.

Still, the official word from the Texas Department of State Health Services is this: "All providers have been told that there are no residency requirements for the vaccine. No one is required to show proof of residency to get vaccinated."

It's a little confusing. But the short answer is that undocumented residents should be able to get a vaccine when they're available. KERA recommends visiting your county's website before trekking out to wait in a long line.

Do I Need To Get The Vaccine If I Already Had The Virus?

The short answer is yes. Texas Tribune reports that health experts still don't know how long natural immunity lasts after someone gets COVID-19, but there has been evidence suggesting it does not last very long. The vaccine can offer you protection against the coronavirus even after you've had it.

Got a tip? Email Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org. You can follow Hady on Twitter @hadysauce. KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

More Stories About COVID-19