AUSTIN (KXAN) — Right now, healthcare workers across Texas are getting vaccinated for COVID-19, and long-term care facilities are prepping for a program launch next week so residents can get the shot. But who is next?

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Monday people who are 65 and older and those with certain medical conditions will be in the next phase of vaccine rollout, known as Phase 1B.

What are the requirements?

DSHS released this set of groups who should be included in Phase 1B.

  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People 16 years of age 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, such as but not limited to:
    • Cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
    • Solid organ transplantation
    • Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

These are people who are at the greatest risk of developing severe symptoms and death from the virus, DSHS explained. More than 70% of COVID-19 deaths in the state have occurred in those who are 65 and older, and people with an existing medical conditions are at an increased risk of hospitalization and death, too.

Although pregnancy is included on the list, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said last week there is limited data on whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for those who are pregnant. The CDC said it’s up to the pregnant person to decide and a conversation with their doctor could help.

How was the phase decided?

DSHS said in a Dec. 17 meeting, the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended including these groups in Phase 1B. Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, agreed.

“In Texas, Phase 1B of vaccination will focus on people for whom there is strong and consistent
evidence that COVID-19 makes them more likely to become very sick or die,” DSHS’ Phase 1B definition states. “Preventing the disease among people who have these risk factors will dramatically reduce the number of Texans who die from the disease and relieve pressure on the healthcare system by reducing hospital and ICU admissions.”

What phase are we in right now?

Texas is currently in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution, which includes frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facilities. HHS said there’s an estimated 1.9 million people included in those groups, so moving to Phase 1B likely won’t start until at least a few weeks.

The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which was expected to receive Pfizer doses this week, is scheduled to start on Dec. 28, according to DSHS.

To learn more about Phase 1B, you can read the department’s definition of it online.