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Starting Monday, all Texans ages 16 and older — about 22 million people — are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced. But as vaccine eligibility expands, actually getting the vaccine may be even more difficult.
Texas joins several other states in opening eligibility to all adults. DSHS said providers should continue to prioritize walk-ins and appointments for Texans 80 and older.
State health officials said Texas has no strictly enforced residency requirement to be vaccinated, but doses allotted to Texas are intended for those living, working or spending substantial amounts of time in Texas. DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said out-of-state residents have represented fewer than 1% of all people vaccinated in Texas.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas?
All people 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas. Children ages 12-17 can get the Pfizer vaccine, but COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for Texas students.
Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
State and local health officials say that vaccine supply is healthy enough to meet demand across much of Texas. Most chain pharmacies and many independent ones have a ready supply of the vaccine, which is administered free and mainly on a walk-in basis. Many private doctors' offices also have it. And you can check current lists of large vaccine hubs that are still operating here.
Public health departments also have vaccines. You can register with the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler either online or by phone. And businesses or civic organizations can set up their vaccine clinics to offer it to employers, visitors, customers or members.
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. 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.
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.
More vaccine info
Texas has administered more than 10 million vaccine doses, and the state will receive more than 1 million first doses this week, according to DSHS. The department also said it’s in the process of ordering more than half a million second doses for people who received their first shot a few weeks ago.
On Monday. state health officials launched the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler, which notifies users when vaccine events are created and available in those areas, and allows the state to identify Texans who are ready, willing and able to get the shot. In addition to centralizing registration and communicating with those still waiting on vaccine, the tool also allows the state to identify where there are high concentrations of Texas who want the shot and allocate doses accordingly, officials said.
Still, vaccines remain in short supply, and it is difficult to secure an appointment to get vaccinated. The process often involves refreshing webpages over and over and trying to grab an appointment before they fill up — often in seconds. For Texans who do not have access to transportation or the ability to navigate technology, signing up for a vaccine appointment is nearly impossible.
Sandra Garcia, a 30-year-old from El Paso, said her parents and grandparents are vaccinated, but it was difficult to get appointments for them because the websites were overwhelmed and kept crashing. Garcia said she feels relieved that she will now be eligible, but she is worried she will not be able to make an appointment for some time.
“It’s great for me because that means I get to get a vaccine, except we still don’t have the volume necessary for all the people trying to get vaccinated,” Garcia said.
Dr. Diana Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association, said people may have trouble getting appointments at first because of high demand and not enough vaccines available for everyone who is eligible, but with Texas continuing to receive more doses, the supply should begin to meet demand over time.
“[Expanding eligibility] will just help keep the momentum going for people getting vaccinated, because so far there’s been outcry for more vaccines than we’ve had vaccines available,” Fite said. “It’s just wonderful news that will help us get closer and closer to vaccinating enough people.”
Fite said people should continue to follow safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Garcia said she will feel much less anxious going inside stores or restaurants for the first time in a year once she gets vaccinated, and she won’t have to worry about getting her family sick.
“Right now I can’t really see how I’ll ever feel comfortable being outside without a mask again, and I can’t imagine I am alone in this,” she said.
Karen Harper and Bryan Mena contributed to this report.
Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association 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 Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.