All adults in Texas are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. But there still aren’t enough doses for everyone.
It still may be hard to secure a vaccine appointment, but doctors hope increasing supply will help meet demand.
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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?
People ages 5-17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People ages 18 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, which are now preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective?
All vaccines in the United States must go through three phases of clinical trials to make sure they are safe and effective. During the development of COVID-19 vaccines, phases overlapped to speed up the process, but all phases were completed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State data shows that unvaccinated Texans made up 85% of coronavirus cases and deaths from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1, 2021.
Should I still get the vaccine if I've had COVID-19?
Yes. Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after recovering from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and vaccination will boost protection. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas?
Most chain pharmacies and many independent ones have a ready supply of the vaccine, and many private doctors' offices also have it. Texas has compiled other options for finding vaccine appointments here, and businesses or civic organizations can set up vaccine clinics to offer it to employees, visitors, customers or members. The vaccine is free, and you don’t need health insurance to get it.
Who can get a COVID-19 booster shot?
The protection the vaccine offers can wane over time, so medical experts recommend getting a booster shot. People ages 18 and older are eligible for booster shots, according to recommendations from the CDC. Recipients ages 12-17 who received the Pfizer vaccine as their initial two-dose treatment are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine as their booster.
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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.
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