Three new large-scale COVID-19 vaccination centers are expected to open in Texas later this month, two in Dallas-Fort Worth and a third in Houston.
The two North Texas community vaccination sites will be located at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and at Fair Park in Dallas. A third site will be located at NRG Stadium in Houston.
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All three vaccination sites will be capable of administering more than 10,000 shots per day collectively and will be operated by FEMA in partnership with the state of Texas through the Texas Division of Emergency Management and local officials.
The announcement was made Wednesday by White House COVID-19 Response Team coordinator Jeff Zients during a briefing.
"Importantly, FEMA has partnered with the CDC to launch these and other vaccination center sites that use processes and are in locations that promote equity," Zients said.
State officials said FEMA will supply the vaccine, meaning the dosages are expected to be on top of the vaccine allocations Texas is already receiving each week.
"What we’re going to be seeing in two weeks is 3,000 in the beginning, 3,000 shots a day from our federal partners. Those numbers will continue to grow," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Wednesday. "My hope is once that happens, I can take the vaccine that we have now and get a hub going with Irving and another hub going with Garland with the vaccine we’re currently getting from the state."
In Texas, more than 5.2 million vaccine doses have been allocated with more than 2.5 million people having received at least one dose. This week, the state of Texas received more than 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is the only way to bring an end to this pandemic. I have been working tirelessly with the White House, as well as with local and state leaders, to bring as many shots to our region as quickly as possible,” said U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th District). “That is why I am pleased that FEMA has announced this morning the establishment of three federally supported vaccination sites – two of which will directly serve North Texas. These sites will be critical in expanding access to vaccines for underserved and marginalized communities.”
In a statement released Wednesday morning, the White House said they are deploying federal teams to work hand-in-hand with state and local officials to get the sites up and running in two weeks.
"The goal of establishing these joint federal pilot centers is to continue to expand the rate of vaccinations in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure that communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection are not left behind," officials said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said while the sites will be operated by FEMA, the county is ready to assist as needed.
"I expect they’re going to need us to help with maybe the storage of the vaccines," Judge Whitley said. "They’re going to need help maybe with security, getting in and out of the site in an orderly manner."
Though details about registration, waitlists, etc., have not yet been released, a statement from Gov. Greg Abbott's office said the sites "are expected to be open to eligible members of the public beginning Feb. 24."
"These mass community sites will allow us to expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations in underserved communities and help us mitigate the spread of the virus," said Abbott. "Thank you to our partners at FEMA for working with the State of Texas to establish these vaccination sites and help us protect our most vulnerable."
The Community Vaccination Centers will use primarily federal staff in support of state and local governments, officials said.
The sites were selected using a range of criteria, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Social Vulnerability Index.
Since March 2020, nearly 270,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Dallas County and nearly 2,500 of those people have died. In Tarrant County, 231,000 people have been infected and more than 2,500 have died.
Last week, the NFL told the federal government it would make all of its stadiums available as COVID-19 vaccination sites to help expedite . AT&T Stadium is, of course, home to the Dallas Cowboys while NRG Stadium in Houston is home to the Texans.
Zients said the Biden administration has plans to open similar sites in more states in the coming weeks.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he's grateful for the new site and officials would be working together "to iron out the details, including registration and access."
"We must work collaboratively to vaccinate as many people as possible and in a targeted way to include a diverse population," Turner said.
COVID-19 VACCINE INFORMATION
The vaccine is currently only being administered to those who are part of Phase 1A and 1B, as outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Those in Phase 1A are front-line healthcare workers or residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes those who are over the age of 65, or those over the age of 16 with a chronic medical condition that puts them at risk for severe illness.
On March 3, vaccine availability was expanded to include school and child care workers.
Once vaccinated, people are expected to get some level of protection within a couple of weeks after the first shot, but full protection may not happen until a couple of weeks after the second shot. Even when fully vaccinated, it's still possible to become infected by the virus since the vaccine does not offer 100% protection.
The Texas DSHS advises that the vaccine will not be readily available for the general public until late spring or early summer 2021.