The large-scale coronavirus vaccination site at Fair Park was meant to provide convenient access to people who live in Southern Dallas. But during its first two days of operation, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price became concerned that people were being overlooked.
Price said he spent time Monday and Tuesday observing the process at Fair Park and said the lines consisted mostly of people who were not residents of the historically underserved, high-risk community.
He said the county was supposed to target specific ZIP codes for the mega-site location, but requiring people to sign up online put Southern Dallas residents at a disadvantage.
“I did not see the demographic that we were targeting that is supposedly the most impacted. I did not see African-Americans. I did not see Latinos,” Price said. “There is an internet desert. There is a digital divide. And with that digital divide, what we’re seeing is we’re not seeing that registration. So, I have suggested, let's deal with it first come, first serve.”
Dallas County and non-Dallas County residents who qualify for the vaccine under the state's Phase 1A or Phase 1B may register for an appointment on the Dallas County website. Registrants will then get a confirmation email notifying them that they have pre-registered and more information about the next steps. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said Texas residents can register for any county’s waitlist regardless of where they live.
However, Price said there should be a focus on residents of Southern Dallas, which was part of a more than two-hour discussion prior to the mega site’s launch.
“These are the ZIP codes for the last two decades from the Centers for Disease Control with chronic illnesses and with all of the underserved challenges,” Price said. “And that’s the reason we did it: accessibility. And so, we dealt with that. I did not see that service being rendered to that population.”
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Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said there was a problem with the rollout, but the health department was working to make sure more people in Southern Dallas get registered.
“We’ve since fixed that weakness in the link and we sent out another 2,000 applications today for appointments for people over 75 in those hardest-hit ZIP codes,” Jenkins said. “So, what you’ll begin to see is the demographics of people getting shots are going to look a lot more like the demographics of Dallas County.”
Jenkins said the county was working on setting up a way to register by phone as well.
Read the full statement from Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price below.
"The Dallas County COVID-19 vaccination site was 'strategically' located in the State Fairgrounds to increase access to the historically underserved and 'high risk' communities. However, yesterday's debut proved to be business as usual. The distribution site lies in Southern Dallas, but few recipients were underserved, and fewer lived nearby or in proximity.
"The stated plan had been to have citizens register online, show up for an appointment, and get the vaccine. Given the digital divide that this pandemic has uncovered, the Commissioner's Court agreed to target specific zip codes for our 1B population. After personally monitoring day one of this operation and reconsidering our plan, I believe that this process needs to be 'first come, first serve.'
"State of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has statewide purview and control, seems to be playing 'footsies' with Tarrant and other "Red" counties to distribute the COVID vaccine. While I find that deplorable, my official efforts are confined to this county.
"However, as the 'Elder statesman' of this court who continually assesses the health care disparities in Dallas County, I cannot sit idle. My constituents in District three and, frankly, throughout the county's span are demanding that we make good on our promise to accommodate the 'targeted demographic.'
As we approach the holiday that bears his name, let me end by reiterating what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said precisely 55 years ago.
"On March 25, 1966, in Chicago, at a press conference before his speech at the second convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, he bemoaned the state of health care delivery in his day. Dr. King said, and I repeat today, 'Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.'
"This process as it is presently configured and operating at this moment is inhumane. If Black Lives Matter, if Brown Lives Matter, if the lives of the poor and working poor matter, this system needs to be fixed. I call on Judge Jenkins, the Health and Human Services Director, and my colleagues on the court to fix this now."