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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.

More vaccines are making their way to Texas, but not everyone's going to get vaccinated. Here's some of the information you'll need to know about the state's plan to distribute the vaccine.

As the Texas Department of State Health Services begins to expand who’s eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans feel in the dark about how and when they’ll be able to get inoculated.

As of January 19, Texas DSHS has reported that 1,307,663 individuals have been given at least one dose of the vaccine since Dec.13. About 60% of those shots were given over the past 14 days.

Still, despite the news that Texas DSHS has told vaccine providers to start serving the elderly and other higher-risk people, the majority of the vaccines doled out up to this point have gone to front-line healthcare workers or residents of long-term care facilities.

Who Is Getting The Vaccine?

Right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is still in limited supply. In Texas, according to DSHS, that means shots are only being given to folks in the Phase 1A and 1B groups.

Phase 1A is made up of two tiers. The first tier includes folks working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19 like physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other support staff. Home healthcare workers, paramedics, and long-term care staff and residents are also in the first tier.

Phase 1A’s second-tier includes staff in outpatient care settings who interact with symptomatic patients, staff in free-standing emergency medical care facilities, pharmacists who are administering COVID-19 vaccines, and last responders who provide mortuary or death services.

People who are 65-years-old and older are in Phase 1B. But they’re not alone. Those who are 16-years-old and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19 are also part of Phase 1B.

How Were They Chosen?

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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.

Where Do I Go To Get Vaccinated?

The first thing Texas DSHS recommends is visiting the Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Locations map to see vaccine providers near you. If you spot a place near you, don’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. Again, supplies are limited.

There are also folks who are crowd-sourcing information about where vaccinations are available. Check that out here.

What About These So-Called 'Mega' Vaccination Sites?

Texas DSHS and officials in counties across the state have shifted plans for the vaccine rollout in hopes of inoculating more people. The change means that officials are now focusing on mass vaccination hubs instead of sending doses directly to providers across the state.

DSHS announced on Saturday, January 16, that the state received 333,650 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of those doses are being directed to the 79 'mass vaccination hubs' in the state, including 15 in hubs North Texas.

In addition to the hubs, DSHS is distributing doses of the vaccine to an additional 181 providers at hospitals, doctors’ offices, and long-term health facilities across the state.

The mass vaccination hubs, or mega vaccine sites, are mostly located in big cities like Dallas and Fort Worth. But DSHS said they "expect there to be more hub sites in suburban and smaller communities."

What Do I Need To Know About Getting Vaccinated At a Mass Vaccination Hub?

You've got to know where they're located and where you can register to get an appointment.

Tarrant County has two hubs, one at the Hurst Conference Center (register), another at the Arlington Expo Center (register). Their mega-sites will only serve residents of these 10 counties: Ellis, Johnson, Hood, Somervell, Erath, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wise, Montague and Cook.

The City of Dallas and Dallas County have collaborated to open a mega public COVID-19 vaccination site at Fair Park (register). The two previous providers — UT Southwestern Medical Center (register) and Parkland Hospital (register) — are also being called large hubs. Additionally, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas County Health and Human Services, and the city of Garland Health Department have all become hubs. Dallas County officials say you do not need to be a resident to get a shot. But you will need some form of identification.

Denton County Public Health will be the sole hub in Denton County. They will be providing shots via drive-thru. (register) Fannin and Parker counties will each establish bubs. The Parker County Hospital District (register) and TMC Bonham Hospital (register) will each receive large quantities of the vaccine.

Collin County has way behind its neighbors in setting up a mass vaccination site, but that's not due to a lack of trying. But as of Monday, January 19, Collin County will have four hubs: Collin County Health Care Services (register), Baylor Scott & White Medical Center Plano (register), and the Allen (register) and McKinney (register)fire departments.

In regions outside of North Texas, Houston has three providers that will be known as mass vaccination hub providers. But all three are struggling to get vaccines. There are plans for the Houston Health Department to open a large stop and go site at Minute Maid Park.

San Antonio has three mass coronavirus vaccination hubs, including the Alamodome, and countless appointments. But they've only been able to provide between 1,000 and 2,000 vaccinations per day.

The City of Lubbock Health Department has one hub. It received 5000 first-doses of the coronavirus vaccine during the week of Jan. 13. As of 1 p.m. Monday, all appointments have been filled for this week's clinics.

Amarillo doled out about 12,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to folks in the region over the span of eight days at a walk-in clinic at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. But City officials have had to temporarily close the clinic when they run out of vaccines.

Who Can Register To Get The Vaccine?

In North Texas pretty much anyone can register to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But if you’re not in the Phase 1A or 1B groups, stay patient. Texas DSHS has said that they expect to start serving the general population in the Spring of 2021.

Click on your county to register:

How Does The Vaccine Work?

How Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Work?

The COVID-19 vaccine is 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.

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.

Got a tip? Email Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org. You can follow Hady on Twitter @hadysauce.

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