AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 800,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are headed to Texas next week, state health officials announced Thursday.
That is the third-largest allocation the state has received, but officials warn Texans will see fewer first doses allocated next week.
“This is happening for two different reasons: the federal government has sent out all the Johnson & Johnson vaccines that have been manufactured this week, so states are getting a lot less J&J this coming week,” said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner of Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
During a virtual briefing Thursday, Garcia said federally-supported sites in Arlington, Dallas and Houston have finished the three-week cycle of first doses and will start administering second doses for the next three weeks, which are now a priority.
“We’re expecting a total of 800,000 doses to arrive this coming week and that includes about 625,000 doses that the state will be allocating for providers this coming week. And then there will be an additional 200,000 doses directly from our federal partners to pharmacy locations and qualified health centers,” Garcia explained.
Phase 1C – why now?
This week, DSHS announced people 50 to 64, who account for 20% of all COVID-19 fatalities, will be able to get vaccinated as the next most-vulnerable group. Officials say opening up eligibility to this group will reduce the number of deaths across the state and reduce the strain on local hospitals and health care systems.
“When we look at the epidemiological data, this group bares significant risks of severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths,” Garcia said.
DSHS estimates there are probably 5 million people in the 1C priority group and about 1 million of them have already been vaccinated. The agency estimates 30% of people ages 65 and older are hesitant about getting the vaccine. They expect to move through Phase 1C much quicker.
“One because this is a much smaller population, but two because the vaccine supply is much more robust than it was in the early weeks of doing our vaccination efforts,” Garcia explained.
State health officials said they will have a “data discussion” on Friday with federal partners who are using old population data to allocate doses to Texas. Officials said the outdated numbers are impacting the allocation amounts.
“Overall we think that a million adults are not getting counted towards Texas, and so ultimately that does reduce the number of vaccines coming to the state,” Garcia said.
State health officials said the vaccine supply will be increasing in the coming months. This comes as President Joe Biden directed states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.
“With the new federal directives that include teachers and child care workers, they have told the retail pharmacies to prioritize them through the month of March, so in some ways there is a bit of a cushion there,” Garcia explained.
DSHS is partnering with the Texas Education Agency to help school districts that may not already have a vaccine provider.
By next week, DSHS estimates 12 to 14 million Texans will be eligible to get the vaccine.