DSHS expects vaccine supplies to increase next week, and they say providers in multiple parts of the state have made great strides in vaccinating people in the current priority groups.
Officials say the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended opening vaccination to everyone who falls under the current Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations to protect as many Texans as possible.
"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. "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."
Most vaccines are authorized for people 18 years old and older. The FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in people 16 and older.
DSHS says they have directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old or older when scheduling appointments and to accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether or not they have an appointment. They are to be immediately moved to the front of the line.
"That will ensure vaccination of anyone 80 or older with as small a burden on themselves as possible," DSHS said in a statement.
DSHS will also be launching a website next week to allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers. 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 to be notified when new clinics and appointments become available.
Additional providers can also be found through the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine.
DSHS says online registration will be the best option for most people. For those who cannot register online, DSHS will launch a toll-free number to provide assistance making an appointment with a participating provider or locating another provider that has vaccinations available.
Officials say Texas has administered more than 9.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to date, equating to more than 6 million people with at least one dose and more than 3 million fully vaccinated.
The vaccine has been rolled out in phases in Texas. Front-line healthcare workers, residents at long-term care facilities, people age 65 and older, and people 16 and older with certain health conditions were among the first groups to become eligible. Earlier this month, Texas opened vaccinations to school and child care personnel. Last week, adults 50 and older became eligble.
Dr. Peter Hotez with the Baylor College of Medicine, says, "Best case scenario: it would be everybody gets vaccinated, we vaccinate our way out of this by the summer." However, Hotez added, "If we screw it up and we’re reckless and refuse to get vaccinated, what will happen is this B117 variant will win and we will see a major 4th wave."