AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Every single adult in Texas will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, and seniors 80 and older will be able to get it with or without an appointment, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The state also plans to launch a brand new vaccine registration website next week.
DSHS announced Tuesday it is able to do this now because of an increase in the vaccine supply. DSHS added that the state has made “great progress in vaccinating priority groups” and it wants to continue to do so.
“As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death – such as older adults,” explained Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel.
DSHS estimated the expanded eligibility will allow another 8-10 million Texans to get a shot, but those shots won’t be immediately available.
“We still expect that we’ll see demand, you know, exceeding supply for at least several weeks into the future,” DSHS media relations director Chris Van Deusen said Tuesday. “We’ve heard from our federal partners that we should be seeing more vaccine supply starting next week, and really throughout the month of April.”
The eligibility expansion means Coy Branscum, of Dripping Springs, will qualify for a shot next week.
“Knowing that I finally get to do that is really exciting,” Branscum said. “Just thinking about it makes me feel overjoyed, just being able to like, be a part of the solution.”
But for Laurie Shouse, of Elgin, who is already eligible, the announcement left her worried she might be passed up.
“If we open up the state to everybody, where does that leave those of us who haven’t been able to get our vaccine yet? It’s a problem,” Shouse, who has an autoimmune disease, said.
Van Deusen said vaccine providers were directed to continue prioritizing Texans in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C, as well as educators. He said some areas of the state worked through those lists faster than others.
“We want to make sure they have the flexibility to open up further,” Van Deusen said. “But we’re asking those providers continue to prioritize, you know, those people who are 50 and older who had those underlying conditions so that they’re protected from COVID-19.”
People who are 80 and older will get moved to the front of the line for getting the vaccine. All they have to do is show up at any vaccine provider and they can immediately get vaccinated.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Texas Medical Association President Dr. Diana Fite said. “But this is just such a big step forward.”
Details on the new registration website
DSHS will launch a website next week to register for the vaccine to get a shot through a public health provider. DSHS officials did not say which day next week, but one would assume that the registration process will likely open on or before March 29, when all adults become eligible.
“The public will be able to enroll in the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler to identify upcoming vaccine clinics hosted by DSHS or a participating local health department and be notified when new clinics and appointments become available,” DSHS said in its release.
It added that Texans can continue to look for other providers through the DSHS Vaccine Information page.
DSHS says online registration will be the best option for most people, but it will also open up a toll-free number to help people who might not have internet access make an appointment or find a provider.
Texas nearing 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered
DSHS said that Texas has administered 9.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine statewide. That includes more than 6 million first doses of the vaccine. Of those, more than 3 million are fully vaccinated.
“This is actually going a little faster than we thought,” TMA’s Fite said. “We didn’t quite think it would be opened up this early.”
“The sooner we can get this under control, the better,” she added.
Most vaccines are authorized for people 18 years old and older, but the FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine people 16 and older.
President Joe Biden announced on March 11 that he was directing the states to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all adults by May 1. The move by Texas beats that federal target by more than a month.
“By July the Fourth there’s a good chance your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said.
Rachel Garza contributed to this report.