Skip to main content
Coronavirus in Texas

There are far more Texans eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine than doses available. Here’s what you need to know about getting one.

Everyone age 16 and older, regardless of occupation or health status, will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas starting March 29. But the vaccine is still in short supply.

A vile containing the Pfizer-BioNTech CODID-19 vaccine is prepared to be administered to health care workers at the UT Healt…

Need to stay updated on coronavirus news in Texas? Our evening roundup will help you stay on top of the day's latest updates. Sign up here.

Starting March 29, all people 16 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas. The state has joined several others in opening eligibility to all adults. But getting the vaccine may be even more difficult now that about 22 million Texans are eligible.

Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas?

All adults are eligible for the vaccine in Texas beginning March 29. State officials say they are asking providers to prioritize Texans who are 80 and older, by allowing them to go to the front of any line or get the vaccine without appointments. The vaccines are not limited to Texas residents, and citizenship is not a requirement for the vaccine.

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccine will be available at a range of health care providers, including pharmacies, community health centers, doctors' offices, hospitals, university medical schools and large vaccination hubs. Most providers also require Texans under age 80 to register for an appointment to get the vaccine to minimize traffic flow.

The state has launched a website for people to sign up for vaccines at public health centers and state-run clinics. The Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler will alert participants to upcoming events and available appointments. People who do not have access to the internet can call (833) 832-7067 to schedule an appointment. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week. Spanish language and other translators are available to help callers, according to the Texas Health and Human services website.

Texans can use this map to find vaccines near them.

Gov. Greg Abbott said in December that more than 7,200 providers across the state had enrolled to administer vaccine doses as they become available. Among these are state designated “vaccination hubs” capable of vaccinating up to 100,000 people — helping streamline distribution as the number of eligible Texans grows. Contact information for the hubs can be found here.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency management officials are also running mass vaccination sites aimed at underserved communities in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. The sites are NRG Stadium in Houston, AT&T Stadium in Arlington and Fair Park in Dallas. Residents need a reservation before showing up to these sites. FEMA is working with county and city health departments to offer doses to those already on their waitlists and working to reach more vulnerable zip codes. These sites are appointment-only.

The governor has also said some 1,100 members of the Texas National Guard will administer vaccines to older people in their homes in rural and isolated areas of the state. The renewed effort to reach older Texans who are unable to leave or have difficulty leaving their homes, an effort dubbed Save Our Seniors, launched Feb. 22. The state will work with organizations like Meals On Wheels and nursing groups to identify homebound older Texans who have volunteered to be vaccinated.

Why is my provider saying they don’t have a vaccine available?

As thousands of Texans have come to discover in recent weeks, doses of the coronavirus vaccine have remained in short supply. The state has also dealt with with a short supply of doses, poor messaging from state officials, technical errors and logistical delays.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer dollars be given at no cost. But providers are allowed to charge an administration fee, which can be reimbursed through insurance. People without insurance will not be charged, according to DSHS.

For people covered under Medicare or Medicaid, the federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine and any fees.

Texas’ COVID-19 vaccination plan requires providers to administer the vaccine “regardless of the vaccine recipient’s ability to pay COVID-19 vaccine administration fees.”

How can I volunteer at a COVID-19 vaccine site? 

There are several vaccine providers and hubs across the state who are encouraging Texans to volunteer at their sites. Volunteers at some locations are also able to receive the vaccine, but it's not guaranteed at every location. We've gathered a list of them below.

Statewide

North Texas

Central Texas

Southeast Texas

I’m a veteran. What do I need to know about getting the vaccine?

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs is working with the CDC and other federal partners give the vaccine to eligible Veterans, spouses, and caregivers. People can sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine using this form, which will share the information with their local VA health facility. Because the VA still has a limited amount of vaccines, they are continuing to follow a phased plan based on their and the CDC 's COVID-19 risk criteria.

How many shots of the vaccine do I need?

Two of the coronavirus vaccines — Moderna and Pfizer — authorized in the United States need two shots to be effective, according to the CDC. A third, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, only requires one dose.

Once you’ve received all of the required doses of the vaccine you were given, health experts still recommend wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth when you're outside of your home.

Will I be notified when to receive the second dose? Will I be required to schedule an appointment?

According to DSHS, when you get the vaccine, you will receive information about what kind of vaccine you got and if you need to go back for a second dose. You can also register for the V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker to receive health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, along with reminders to get your second dose if you need one. Only two of the current three vaccines authorized in the United States require two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose.

How long after the second shot does it take before the vaccine reaches maximum immunity?

For the vaccines that require two doses, you will usually develop full protection one to two weeks after getting your second dose. At this time, experts do not know how long that protection will last or whether a booster shot will be necessary after the initial recommended vaccine dose(s). The CDC says it won’t know how long immunity lasts after vaccination until it has more data on how well COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. The CDC and DSHS will keep the public informed as they learn more.

Can I gather with other people once I get both doses of the vaccine? 

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to the CDC. But they recommend to keep those gatherings small. Officials also say that fully vaccinated people can gather in the same way with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as vaccinated grandparents visiting visiting healthy children and grandchildren, as long as the unvaccinated people are from the same low-risk household.

Health officials say a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine. The new guidance does not mention anything related to travel, and visiting restaurants or other places, even as several states have begun loosening COVID-19 restrictions on businesses. The guidance also doesn't mention anything about people who've gained some level of immunity from having been infected and recovered from the virus.

Fully vaccinated people should still follow steps to protect themselves and others — like wearing a mask and social distance — when out in public, gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household and visiting with an high-risk unvaccinated people or people who live with them.

Nursing home residents who are fully vaccinated are now allowed to get close-contact visitation at facilities under most circumstances.

How is Texas keeping track of who’s gotten the first dose? 

The Texas Department of State Health Services has a map that tracks where doses of the coronavirus vaccines are going and how many people are receiving them. The state’s dashboard has so far separated the numbers by the phase.

But the state’s numbers could lag up to two days behind what's happening on the ground. Providers have 24 hours to report their vaccination statistics to the agency, which updates its numbers each afternoon with data reported by midnight the day before.

How will I know when to get my second dose of the vaccine?

Texans should receive a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card when they get their first dose of the vaccine. This card will include: the date of their first dose; the dose manufacturer’s name and the lot number of the vaccine; the health care professional or clinic site; and the date to return for their second dose, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texans who receive a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine can also book their second dose during their appointment for the first one. If they don’t, they can make the appointment later. The provider may also contact them proactively to schedule the follow-up dose. The health department recommends people get their second dose at the same location they got their first so “each provider has an opportunity to order a matching number of second doses to arrive at the appropriate time.” The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose.

Are there different reactions to the vaccine depending on the manufacturer? 

There are three manufacturers whose vaccines are currently approved for use in the US: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the most common side effect reported for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is a headache. Fatigue or chills were the next most frequent symptoms reported by people who’ve received the vaccine.

Texas has seen similar symptoms reported compared to the national symptoms reported by the manufacturers.

Side effects related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine include pain at injection site, headache, feeling very tired, muscle aches, nausea and fever, according to the manufacturer.

If my first dose is by one manufacturer, can I receive a dose from the other for the second?

The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should be from the same manufacturer. This is why the Texas Department of State Health Services recommends returning to the same location as the first dose for the second one.

Who decides who is eligible to receive doses of the vaccine?

Decisions on how doses of the vaccine are allocated are made by a state panel of advisers — including lawmakers, state and local health officials, and medical experts and researchers. The group, known as the Expert Vaccine Advisory Panel, provides recommendations for final approval by Hellerstedt.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. Health experts and public officials widely agree that the vaccine is safe. The three currently approved vaccine manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — reported their vaccines are 95%, 94% and 72% effective, respectively, at protecting people from serious illness. While no vaccine is without side effects, clinical trials for Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson show serious reactions are rare.

Abbott received his first dose of the vaccine last month, telling reporters, “I will never ask a Texan to do something I’m not willing to do myself.”

Should I still get the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19? 

Yes. Medical experts recommend that people who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine. Research has shown that people can be reinfected with the virus, and the vaccine adds an extra layer of protection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If someone’s treatment included monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, they should talk to their doctor before scheduling a vaccine appointment. The CDC recommends that people who received those treatments should wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.

Should I still wear a mask after I get the vaccine? 

Yes. Texans should continue to engage in safer practices like social distancing, wearing a mask whenever they’re around people outside of their immediate household and washing their hands frequently, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Wearing a mask lessens the chances of contracting the virus. Health experts estimate 75% to 90% of Texans would need to achieve immunity to COVID-19 for the state to reach herd immunity. It's also currently unknown if getting a COVID-19 vaccine prevents people from spreading the virus, according to the CDC.

When will Texas get more COVID-19 vaccine doses?

New doses of the vaccine will continue to arrive in Texas over the coming months, with allotments arriving in Texas at a rate of about 1 million per week.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has set up hubs to vaccinate tens of thousands of people each week and are directed to focus on the most vulnerable communities in their regions. Contact information for the hubs can be found here.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and state emergency management officials have also begun running mass vaccination sites aimed at underserved communities in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. The sites are NRG Stadium in Houston, AT&T Stadium in Arlington and Fair Park in Dallas. Residents need a reservation before showing up to these sites.

How will Texans in rural areas without reliable transportation get the vaccine? 

For older Texans who need help accessing the vaccine, there are several initiatives happening at both the state and local levels, says Douglas Loveday, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. Local chapters of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging have helped identify and set appointments for locals to be vaccinated.

Loveday also said several councils of governments across the state have been helping people in more rural areas by pairing older Texans with smaller, local providers including pharmacies to help ease the vaccine process for them. These services are also available to people of any age who qualify for the vaccine because of other conditions.

For example, the Rio Grande Council of Governments is contacting Texans in those seven counties and the The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo who are part of phase 1B to help them schedule appointments or provide them with information to get them vaccinated. Texans can find useful contacts for their council in this directory.

Loveday also said some local health departments will move older Texans or those who cannot stand for long time to the front of the queue at vaccine sites. And some parts of the state have opened drive-thru vaccine sites, including Dallas, Fort Bend and Brazoria.

The state and Texas National Guard has also partnered with groups like Meals on Wheels for its Save our Seniors program, aimed at reaching older Texans in their homes who are unable to get to a vaccination site. The state has also increased allocations to individual providers in remote areas to ramp up access for rural Texans who don't live near large hubs.

I’ve tried everything to get a vaccine. I can’t get one or get my question answered. Who do I contact at the state level?

If you have questions or concerns, or you would like more information about COVID-19 vaccine distribution, you can email coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov or call 211 and choose Option 6.

To reach an elected official, you can find who represents you in Congress and in the Texas Legislature — and their contact information — by typing your address into the Tribune’s Elected Officials Directory.

The state has launched a website for people to sign up for vaccines at public health centers and state-run clinics. The Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler will alert participants to upcoming events and available appointments. People who do not have access to the internet can call (833) 832-7067 to schedule an appointment. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week. Spanish language and other translators are available to help callers, according to the Texas Health and Human services website.

Disclosure: H-E-B has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Quality journalism doesn't come free

Yes, I'll donate today