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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is asking the state to refine its vaccine rollout program, a move he says will help give Texans a clearer idea as to when they can reasonably expect to receive their injections of the coronavirus vaccine.
His request comes as distribution of the vaccine in Texas has been beset with miscommunication and technical issues that have created confusion for patients and providers, even as Texas outpaces other states in administering the vaccine.
Texans in phases 1A and 1B of the vaccine rollout — which includes front-line health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, Texans who are 65 years and older and those who are at least 16 with certain chronic medical conditions — are already eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Right now, in many cities and counties when an announcement of available vaccinations is made, website sign-up pages crash and phone calls go unanswered,” Patrick wrote. “Texans need to have a better understanding of the time it will take for everyone to be vaccinated in order to reduce lines, confusion and frustration.”
In a Thursday letter to the chair of the state’s Expert Vaccination Allocation Panel, Patrick urged subgroups for Texans in phase 1B — Texans 65 years and older and those who are at least 16 with certain chronic medical conditions — “so that the more than 4 million plus Texans and those with chronic conditions don’t all expect to get their vaccination at the same time – something we know is not possible.”
“This would help give people an idea of reasonable expectations and reduce wait times and frustration each week,” Patrick wrote in his letter, which was addressed to Imelda Garcia, chair of the panel.
Patrick suggested the state reserve two weeks to vaccinate just those who are ages 75 and older — a subset of 1B — once current vaccine appointments are honored. After that’s completed, Patrick suggested vaccinating all teachers and school staff over 65 and then vaccinating others over 65, broken down into smaller groups, by either birth year, month or day.
“Of course, your expert panel may come up with better or different ideas than I have offered to give the public clearer guidance and predictability of when they can be vaccinated,” Patrick continued.
At a press conference earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott praised the state’s vaccine rollout as officials warned the COVID-19 pandemic is at its worst here. Texas is outpacing other states in administering the vaccine, last week topping 1 million total doses administered. As of Tuesday, Texas was set to receive 333,650 more first doses of COVID-19 vaccine for 260 providers across the state, including nearly 80 hubs capable of focusing on large community vaccination efforts.
As the state began the massive undertaking of distributing the coronavirus vaccine, its early rollout experienced data problems that left state officials with immunization and dose information that was outdated, incomplete and sometimes misleading.
That data wasn’t used to dole out vaccines during the early weeks administering shots. The federal government allocated doses based largely on population, but will likely start using the vaccination rate — how fast doses are going into arms — as at least part of the allocation process, health officials have said.
In the letter to Garcia, Patrick thanked Abbott for his “leadership” on the state’s vaccine distribution plan and hailed state officials for doing a “good job” on vaccine rollout — “better than most states,” Patrick said.