State health official: More information on next group to be vaccinated, other distribution efforts coming soon

The Texas Department of State Health Services held a press conference Jan. 28 featuring updates on its vaccine distribution plan. (Courtesy Texas Department of State Health Services)
The Texas Department of State Health Services held a press conference Jan. 28 featuring updates on its vaccine distribution plan. (Courtesy Texas Department of State Health Services)

The Texas Department of State Health Services held a press conference Jan. 28 featuring updates on its vaccine distribution plan. (Courtesy Texas Department of State Health Services)

So far, more than 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed throughout Texas since the process began in mid-December, amounting to 1.7 million people who have received the first dose and about 370,000 who have been fully vaccinated.

“That is a remarkable accomplishment, and it means that nearly one out of every 13 Texans at least 16 years of age have had a vaccine,” said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services. “But, more importantly, for Texans 65 and older, that’s more than one out of every six ... who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Still, many questions remain regarding the state’s vaccine distribution plan.

Due to a rash of media queries and a relentless onslaught of new COVID-19 cases, the Texas Department of State Health Services held a webinar press conference Jan. 28 featuring updates on the state’s vaccine distribution plan.

The presser came on the heels of a Jan. 24 state profile report showing that while the total number of cases reported was down 12% from the previous week, Texas netted 138,386 new COVID-19 cases—a rate of 477 per 100,000 residents. Texas’ death rate also increased 5% from the previous week, with a total of 2,257 deaths, per the report.


That took six weeks, and Garcia acknowledged there is still a long way to go.

Garcia said federal vaccine shipments will go up from 313,000 this week to about 385,000 next week, and staffers have been informed that increased rate should hold for at least the next few weeks.

There will also be a one-time boost of roughly 126,000 first doses coming from the federal government next week, and DSHS staffers will use that dump to try to send more vaccines to as-yet-underserved areas.

With regard to the coming shift from vaccinating the Phase 1B population—those who are more likely to become very sick or die if they are infected with COVID-19—to the next group, tentatively called Phase 1C, answers are not yet available, Garcia said.

Based on new information that should be forthcoming from the President Joe Biden administration, as well as continued monitoring of weekly data centered on progress of the distribution process, Garcia said DSHS staffers are still discussing the next group to be vaccinated and who will be in it.

“We will announce that once we have come to a final decision ... and communicate that broadly,” she said. “As far as when we transition to the 1C population, ... that really is dependent on the vaccine supply and how quickly we get through our 1B population. That has yet to be determined.”

Just as there was an overlap with the switch from Phase 1A to Phase 1B, there will be some overlap from 1B to 1C, she said.

There should also be more information forthcoming on vaccination data across racial lines, Garcia said, as DSHS staff is working on requiring that information from those reporting their weekly totals back to the state department.

DSHS staff cannot yet say for certain when there will be a shift from the current system to designated hubs to more specific health care providers. As vaccine shipments increase, so should the dispersal to smaller providers, Garcia said, adding that the focus continues to be on areas that can facilitate high rates of vaccination week to week.

The biggest allocations of vaccines so far has been in the state’s urban and suburban areas, and that is largely because of initial efforts to get the vaccine to health care workers in dense population centers, Garcia said.

“We have made a really strong start here in Texas, getting folks vaccinated and taking critical steps toward ending the pandemic, but we still have a long way to go,” Garcia said. “We’ll get there together.”

By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


MOST RECENT

Pastries
Seattle's Piroshky Piroshky Bakery bringing pastries to Cedar Park April 21

The bakery will bring its famous Russian pastries to Cedar Park for a one-day event.

The Pushing for Justice Caravan for Javier Ambler was held in San Gabriel Park on Aug. 15. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Javier Ambler’s Law awaits Texas Senate approval

The bill passed the House on April 15.

Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
7 restaurants coming to Cedar Park, Leander; new murals to go up in Georgetown and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the Central Texas area from the past week.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

See how Leander and Cedar Park real estate fared in March. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
See how Leander, Cedar Park real estate fared in March

The Central Texas real estate market continues to set housing records despite affordability growing pains, according to March Austin Board of Realtors data.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Williamson County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
New coronavirus cases continue to be reported even as vaccinations ramp up in Williamson County

Here are the most recent coronavirus updates from Williamson County.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.

Z'Tejas' chorizo dumplings are served on the Arboretum location's porch. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Z'Tejas to open in Avery Ranch; butcher, deli to open in Dripping Springs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell predicted the end of mass vaccination sites by Memorial Day. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County judge predicts end of most mass vaccination sites by Memorial Day

As of April 14, its waitlist had dwindled to fewer than 50 for those in phases 1A, 1B and 1C and teachers, officials said.

Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.