AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas is expecting to receive more than 1 million first doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week, which will allow the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to expand the number of providers that can give out shots.
During a virtual briefing Thursday, Imelda Garcia, the associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services, told reporters more than 1,600 providers will receive shipments of COVID-19 vaccines.
Garcia said expanding distribution to providers is based on the simple fact that the vaccine supply keeps increasing. Since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate recently received emergency use authorization, she said that’s allowing the state’s allocation to grow next week by more than 220,000 doses.
Garcia, however, said it’s still unclear how many doses Texas will receive of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the weeks ahead. The state received its first shipment this week of more than 24,000 doses, which went to the three mass vaccination clinics set up by the federal government in Arlington, Dallas and Houston.
Garcia also shared more than 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered across the state, including 200,000 doses in the last three days alone.
DSHS also addressed why Texas falls near the bottom of the country in terms of vaccinations per capita, explaining state leaders are in constant communication with our federal partners to get more supply to Texas.
But, Garcia said part of the problem is Texas may not be receiving enough, explaining the CDC is using old data that underestimates our state’s vulnerable population.
“We know that the CDC is using older data that has us with a lower adult population than what is currently estimated now. And so we have shared that information. They have heard us, we have yet to actually see them make a change from using 2018 to 2019 census data,” Garcia said.
The update Thursday from DSHS fell on the same day that marks the one-year anniversary of Texas reporting its first case of COVID-19. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has now claimed the lives of more than 43,000 Texans.
A spokesperson for DSHS began the briefing by encouraging people to still wear masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“All Texans should keep up the good work,” he said.
Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced business capacity limits and the statewide mask mandate will no longer be in effect starting March 10.
Teachers and daycare workers
The DSHS representatives talked Thursday about the recent announcement that teachers, school staff members and daycare employees are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.
On Wednesday, the agency shared, upon direction from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eligibility will be expanded to “those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.”
However, Texas DSHS said this does not change the other groups that were already prioritized. Providers will be encouraged to vaccinate health care workers, people with medical conditions and those 65 and older first.
“This doesn’t mean they’re jumping past others in line,” Garcia explained Thursday.
She said the agency will have more information to share soon about targeted efforts to vaccinate school workers, but she encouraged them to now seek out a shot through a vaccine hub or another provider in their communities.
She also said she expects schools designated by DSHS as providers will get direct allocations of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks.
What about 1C?
Garcia shared DSHS expects to make an announcement this month about who exactly will comprise the 1C category of those eligible to receive the vaccine.
However, it remains unclear at this time when the state will cross the threshold to begin providing shots to people chosen for that category.
For now only those in Phases 1A and 1B can receive the shots, according to the DSHS website. That includes education workers, frontline health care workers, residents at long-term care facilities, people older than 65 and those with health conditions that increase their risk of severe complications from COVID-19.