More People Are Getting COVID-19 Vaccines, But Questions About Supply And Registration Still Linger
Thousands of North Texans got their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week — and that raised almost as many questions as there were jabs: Questions about vaccine supply, how to get people registered and where to get the vaccine.
KERA reporters Hady Mawajdeh, Bret Jaspers and Alejandra Martinez compared notes after reporting on North Texas' vaccine distribution this week.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
ALEJANDRA MARTINEZ: We know vaccine supplies are limited so far. The focus has been on health care workers and then people over 65 or with underlying conditions. Bret, what’s the state saying?
BRET JASPERS: The Department of State Health Services recently encouraged providers to focus on vaccinating older people, like those 75-plus years old. Not a requirement, not a hard and fast rule. People 75 and up are more likely to have a serious case of the virus.
MARTINEZ: Bret, how many vaccines is Texas getting in the next week?
JASPERS: The number of total doses coming to the state fluctuates week to week. Statewide, there are about 400,000 doses in the next week. New vaccine "hubs" are coming online. But there's not a lot of supply.
MARTINEZ: What about here in North Texas?
JASPERS: DSHS is trying to keep the share consistent with the share of population. Hady, you know about this.
HADY MAWAJDEH: They’re trying to even it out. The suburbs of North Texas saw an increase in doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during the first week of February.
Denton County received 32,000 doses. That’s a lot more doses than they will receive this upcoming week.
JASPERS: Oh, and Denton had that drive-thru.
MAWAJDEH: Right. Those extra doses led to the state’s biggest ‘mega-site’ at Texas Motor Speedway. And the massive drive-thru allowed them to get a lot of people inoculated and quickly.
JASPERS: More ‘mega-sites’ coming?
MAWAJDEH: Potentially. Leaders in the region are applying to get one. But again it comes down to vaccine supply. Still, the big takeaway to me, is that the drive-thru vaccination sites seem to be catching on.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said his county hopes to open drive-thru vaccination sites this upcoming week. Collin County now has four drive-through sites. Garland has one, and Dallas has plans to open one too.
MARTINEZ: Well...if Dallas can get people registered!
One of the biggest barriers is people’s access to the internet. One in four households in Dallas doesn’t have broadband internet and I think I’ve been seeing that digital divide especially in the Latino community.
In neighborhoods like Oak Cliff, many have shared that they don’t have computers or smartphones and are having trouble registering online.
MAWAJDEH: And Dallas County just activated a new number where people can call to register for their COVID-19 vaccine — so does that solve it?
MARTINEZ: This is a start. The number is (855) 466-8639.
Residents can call any day 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And the people taking those calls can speak both English and Spanish.
MAWAJDEH: How are they letting people know about this?
MARTINEZ: Initially Dallas' outreach efforts had a couple problems — like links to websites that did not work and Spanish-language advertisements that were not properly translated.
Now, they are revamping their media campaign to target people of color. And they’re partnering up with community organizations to build trust. And fight misinformation.
Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at email@example.com, Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org and Alejandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Bret @bretjaspers, Alejandra @alereports and Hady @hadysauce on Twitter.
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