With expanded vaccine eligibility coming, here’s how local counties are prioritizing groups

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Texas will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults starting Monday, March 29. Counties in Central Texas are preparing to handle the new guidance in the coming days.

Large amounts of cars could already be seen lining up at COVID-19 vaccine sites Tuesday. The Texas Department of State Health Services expects more vaccine supply next week to accommodate when it gets even busier with expanded eligibility.

Under the new guidance, every single adult in Texas will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Seniors 80 and older will be able to get it with or without an appointment, according DSHS.

Cynthia Valentine couldn’t be happier to be getting her first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“Didn’t even feel it,” she said.

Family Hospital Systems in Williamson County said it will still prioritize high-risk patients and older adults like Valentine, as recommended by DSHS. But it is prepared to take on more appointments.

“We are built to provide vaccines in large numbers,” said Director of Communications for FHS Jen Stratton.

Curative, which also works within Williamson County, is prepared with its mobile vaccine vans, which head out to smaller communities.

“The intention obviously is to get as many of these vaccine clinics across the state.” said Jamil Sabbagh with Curative.

Over in Travis County, Austin Public Health said about 148,844 first and second doses have been administered so far. But Austin leaders want more time to focus on other priority groups and equity first.

“Now we have to pay even closer attention to vaccination efforts by zip codes, now that a much larger group is able to be vaccinated,” said Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he doesn’t necessarily agree that vaccines should’ve been opened to everyone so soon.

“I wish our move would have been to focus on essential workers,” he said.

Valentine thinks the state made the right call with expanding eligibility.

“The whole country needs the shot, kids, everybody, or we’re not going to get to herd immunity,” she explained.

In Hays County, leaders said they will only vaccinate people with appointments and won’t be changing much about their operations. The county has already given out 25,000 first and second doses.

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