Tarrant County leaders say COVID-19 vaccine access is improving, but supply remains a challenge.
“The biggest obstacle has been the lack of vaccines. We’re still waiting on the state to give us more vaccines. They’re sending it in other places, but we’re not getting as much as we should be getting here,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said.
Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health, said the county health department has received an increased supply of vaccines over the past few weeks.
“We were getting anywhere from 9,000 to 10,000 doses a week. Last week and this week, we’ve gotten 18,000 -- so almost a double in supply,” Taneja said. “But overall as a county, I think being a large metro county we’re just getting a drop in the bucket. On our waiting list, we still have 150,000 people that could use an appointment if we had vaccines.”
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According to a briefing before Tarrant County commissioners Tuesday, about 9% of residents in Tarrant County are fully vaccinated and 18% have received at least one dose, Taneja said.
Another challenge he said the department was currently dealing with was keeping people interested in the vaccine. When the state initially announced eligibility would be expanded to all adults in Texas, Taneja said there was a slight uptick in COVID-19 vaccine registrations.
“Overall, I think the interest is starting to wane off. It’s partly because of vaccine availability improving. We’re getting constant feedback that we were able to go to a doctor’s office or to a pharmacy and get our vaccine. That is more convenient for folks, so the need for signing up at a vaccine registry like a waiting list and then going to a mass clinic is starting to subside a little,” he said. “We’ve seen this with the testing effort, also. Testing was, in the beginning, in short supply. Everyone wanted to get tested. As the testing became ample available, there were sites everywhere. People kind of lost interest, so I think similarly something is starting to happen with the vaccine.”
However, Taneja noted there is one big difference between the tests and the vaccines.
“The difference here is we need to make sure our entire community is vaccinated, so we can put COVID away for good,” he said. “So, my message for everyone who is listening is to register, get the vaccine. Whether it’s with us, your doctor’s office, with pharmacies, but let’s get vaccinated so we can get back to normal.”
In a recent interview with NBC 5, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services said the state was expecting more than 1 million first doses. Supply is expected to increase over time, and match better with demand.