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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?
As of March 29, all people 16 and older are eligible for vaccines in Texas. The state began by offering doses to front-line health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, Texans who are 65 and older, and people with qualifying health conditions. School staff, Head Start program staff and child care staff were eligible starting March 3, and Texans 50 and older were eligible starting March 15.
Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Check with your local health care provider or public health department. The vaccine will be available at more than 80 vaccination hubs across the state and some pharmacies, clinics and hospitals. Most providers are also requiring Texans to register for appointments to get the vaccine to minimize traffic flow. The state has a map of providers that are offering the vaccine here.
I’ve called every provider in my area and I cannot find a vaccine. What gives?
We’ve heard from many Texans who have had this experience. There are simply far more eligible Texans who want vaccine doses right now than there are doses available. It will be months until the vaccine is broadly available to everyone. Until then, it’s best to keep checking with providers, wait until you are eligible if you are not yet and continue to wear a mask when you’re out in public and practice social distancing.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Yes. Although some Texans have expressed hesitancy toward the vaccine, health experts and public officials widely agree that the vaccine is safe. Pfizer and Moderna reported their vaccines are 95% and 94% effective, respectively, at protecting people from serious illness, and while no vaccine is without side effects, clinical trials for both Pfizer and Moderna show serious reactions are rare.
Do I need to get the vaccine if I already had the virus?
The short answer is yes. Health experts still don’t know how long natural immunity lasts after someone gets COVID-19, but evidence suggests it does not last very long.
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.