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State opens COVID shots to everyone

HARRIS COUNTY – All adults will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas beginning Monday, March 29. The Texas Department of State Health Services expects vaccine supplies to increase next week, and providers in multiple parts of the state have made great strides in vaccinating people in the current priority groups. 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.

“As a matter of fact, we in Houston had pretty much exhausted our waitlists and we wanted to have more real-time appointments available,” said Houston Health Department director Stephen Williams. Texans can continue to find vaccine providers throughout Greater Houston and sign up on waitlists through the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine.

Houston Methodist, consistently one of the area’s largest vaccine providers, will allow anyone to sign up on its waitlist but will prioritize those 50 and older for now.

“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.