With COVID-19 vaccine distribution moving at a steady pace and more updates to the state’s list of who is eligible to receive one expected soon, Fort Bend County is approaching a turning point in the pandemic, the county’s local health authority said March 4.

“We're starting to see ourselves turn the corner,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, the county’s local health authority and director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services. “If there's another surge, we should be able to blunt it. If there's a mild spring surge, we should be able to blunt it, if we're continuing to hammer on the vaccines.”

Minter spoke alongside Dr. Alfredo Torres, associate provost and chief diversity officer at the University of Texas Medical Branch, during a virtual event March 4 hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce health care division.

The two health care professionals addressed vaccine distribution in the county, dispelled myths about the three federally approved vaccines and expressed hope regarding updates to the state's list of who is eligible to receive a vaccine they expect to see in the weeks ahead.

Currently, Fort Bend County is running four vaccination sites as well as one mobile team, Minter said. The mobile unit is providing vaccinations to residents who are unable to register for a vaccine themselves or are unable to get to a vaccination site, such as residents who are homebound or have no transportation.

For now, only individuals who qualify under Phases 1A or 1B of the state’s vaccination plan as well as school and child care personnel, are eligible to receive the vaccine in Texas. Residents who fall into categories 1A and 1B include frontline health care workers, residents at long-term care facilities, residents age 65 and older or those with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID‑19.

Teachers, school staff and child care personnel were added to the eligibility list this week, which Minter said is a positive step. She expects others to be added to that list in the weeks ahead, possibly including grocery store workers, transportation workers and more.

“We're at the cusp of getting many more vaccines into the community, and we're positioned to push those out,” Minter said.

And when the general population has the chance to get vaccinated, Torres said, he encourages all residents to do so.

“Vaccines do not save lives, vaccinations save lives,” he said.

Minter reminded attendees that the county’s registration system is now open for all residents whether they are currently eligible for the vaccine. Residents can sign up and be put on a waitlist by visiting www.fbchealth.org. Residents without accessible internet or a computer can call 281-633-7795 to register.

“People were very vocal about wanting to be on a waiting list,” Minter said. “It helps them have hope.”

As residents await their opportunity to get a vaccine, it is key that they continue to wear masks and follow safety protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Minter and Torres said.

If residents do, Minter said, the county can look forward to returning to a place of normalcy in the months ahead.

“We'll get there,” she said. “We'll get there sooner than you think.”