Texas Opens COVID-19 Vaccines to All Adults Beginning March 29

Anyone age 16 and older will be eligible, says DSHS

An RN administers the vaccine at a clinic in early February (photo by Jana Birchum)

Beginning Monday, March 29, all adults in Texas will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, said the Texas Department of State Health Services today (March 23).

Until today’s announcement, vaccine eligibility in Texas was open only to select populations, including health care workers, adults age 50 and older, people with certain underlying health conditions, teachers, school staff, and child care workers. Come Monday, people age 16 and older – regardless of occupation or underlying health conditions – will be eligible.

At the time of this blog’s publication, Austin Public Health had not commented on how it plans to prioritize eligible vaccine groups in light of the state’s announcement. Although APH is only one of more than 350 vaccine providers in Austin, the agency – one of Travis County’s two state-designated vaccine hubs – receives the largest allocation of doses from the state (typically 12,000/week). In a joint briefing before Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court earlier this morning, Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott emphasized that local demand continues to outpace supply as the state expands eligibility. Come Monday, “We are still going to have to prioritize,” said Escott. “We're going to have to focus efforts in particular areas and on particular groups to ensure that we are achieving the best public health outcome that we can.”

Meanwhile, state officials are asking vaccine providers to focus on people age 80 and older when scheduling vaccinations, in addition to prioritizing anyone in that age group who shows up to get vaccinated, whether or not they have an appointment, by immediately moving them to the front of the line. “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 state’s 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.”

See more in this week’s print issue, which hits stands on Thursday, March 25.

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COVID-19, Texas Department of State Health Services, COVID-19 vaccine, Austin Public Health, Mark Escott, DSHS, Imelda Garcia, Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel

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