Legislature convenes; Austin Public Health Authority offers COVID-19 vaccine to lawmakers

Texas coronavirus vaccine

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Lawmakers say they were approached by Austin’s Interim Public Health Authority, who offered them the COVID-19 vaccine-regardless of whether they are currently eligible.

In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Mark Escott approached lawmakers during an informal meeting ahead of the Texas Legislature convening. Several of these lawmakers are not part of the phase 1A or 1B vaccinate distribution list set by the Department of State Health Services.

Lawmakers who accepted receiving the vaccine say it’s crucial because they’re expected to participate in large gatherings, such as the Texas Legislature.

“I determined that it would be in the best interest of Travis County residents if all of those who are involved in this mass gathering were vaccinated. Yes, I’ve had my first vaccine,” said Sarah Eckhardt, Texas State Senator. “I recognize that we have to improve our vaccine distribution, and we have to increase the amount of of vaccines that we are getting. The Texas Legislature and the Texas government is really the only entity that can do it.”

KXAN asked Senator Eckhardt why legislators should get the vaccine when vulnerable populations are still waiting to receive it.

“There are two ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. One is to cocoon those who are most vulnerable. The other is to slow the spread. In order to do that we must either not gather or vaccinate those who must gather.”

Texas House Representative Vikki Goodwin says she was also approached, but didn’t accept receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Like everybody else I am anxious to receive the vaccine, but I don’t think it’s right to skip the line,” said Goodwin. “The CDC and the state government has set up guidelines of who should be receiving it, and I don’t fall in those guidelines.”

A House Democratic Caucus Aide also sent KXAN an email exchange between Austin Public Health and the Chief of Staff for the Democratic Offices. He recognized the importance of receiving the vaccine, however, did request clarification as to whether or not this was also a recommendation made by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and DSHS.

“It’s a tremendous offer and makes sense both from a continuity of governance perspective, and that the City of Austin and Travis County want to take every step to mitigate the risk presented by the Legislature convening,” said Phillip Martin, executive director of the House Democratic Caucus. “We just want to confirm the offer is uniformly being made to everyone, and from there each member and staff can make a decision that is best for them.”

Friday it was announced that a Beaumont lawmaker tested positive for COVID-19. Now six house members are self-isolating.

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