Local officials said Friday they welcome the change Texas has made in allowing the COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults age 16 or older starting Monday, March 29.
“We welcome the change. We were having a hard time contacting traditional 1B and 1C patients anyway because they were already receiving their vaccine from other providers. The change to all 16+ with an allowance for prioritizing those 80+ makes sense to us when you look at the rapidly increasing availability of the vaccine in Matagorda County,” said Aaron Fox, chief business development officer and public information officer for the Matagorda County Hospital District.
The new directive from the Texas Department of State Health Services was made March 22 and based on the decision that it expects vaccine supplies to increase next week and providers in multiple parts of the state have made great strides in vaccinated people in the current priority groups.
Matagorda Regional Medical Center will host a public COVID-19 vaccine clinic starting Monday, March 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday, March 30 from noon to 4 p.m.
According to Aaron Fox, chief business development officer and public information officer for the Matagorda County Hospital District, more than 1,100 Pfizer doses will be administered over the two-day event.
The vaccines will be given free of charge to Texans age 16 or older, though persons age 80 and up will be prioritized when possible.
The state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended opening vaccination to everyone who falls under the current Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations to protect as many Texans as possible.
“We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. “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.”
DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old or older when scheduling appointments and accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether or not they have an appointment, by immediately moving them to the front of the line. That will ensure vaccination of anyone 80 or older with as small a burden on themselves as possible.
Also, next week, DSHS will launch a website to allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers. 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. People can continue to find additional providers though the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine
Online registration will be the best option for most people. For those for whom that is not an option, DSHS will launch a toll-free number to provide assistance making an appointment with a participating provider or locating another provider that has vaccine available.
To date, Texas has administered more than 9.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, equating to more than 6 million people with at least one dose and more than 3 million fully vaccinated. Most vaccines are authorized for people 18 years old and older; the FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in people 16 and older.