Monday marks the next phase in Texas’ COVID-19 vaccine rollout with eligibility expanding to all adults in the state.
Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the expanded eligibility means between 8-10 million more people will be eligible for a vaccine. The state is expecting more than one-million first doses next week.
“It’s definitely on the higher end. We’ve only been over a million one other time. That was that first week we had Johnson & Johnson available,” Van Deusen said.
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“They had been manufacturing that for some time, so the federal government was able to push out everything they had previously manufactured all at once. That pushed us over a million three weeks ago, but it’s been less than that over the last couple of weeks.”
The doses will be delivered to roughly 900 providers in the state Van Deusen said. That does not include certain chain pharmacies which may be receiving doses directly from the federal government.
Paula Perrone, owner of Perrone Pharmacy in Fort Worth, said they are bracing for a possible surge in demand. At their peak, the pharmacy had a waiting list of about 4,000 people.
“It was the perfect storm, no vaccines and everyone wanted on the list. It was awful, but we have gotten through it now,” Perrone said. “We’ve worked through, I would say 95%. I would say we’re up to, the people who are booked now or are being booked for next week just called in the first part of last week.”
Right now, Perrone said they’re administering about 500 to 600 shots per week. Once eligibility expands, they expect about 700 appointments weekly. The store also participates in outreach programs, such as vaccinations at local schools.
“We have hired more people to man the phones and to take appointments. We are opening up on a limited basis, a self-booking application because now there’s no age restriction or condition restriction,” Perrone said.
Though eligibility will expand to all adults, Van Deusen said there is still guidance from the state.
“It’s going to look different in different places. Texas is such a big and diverse state with such variety, but we’re certainly asking providers to continue to prioritize those populations that are the most vulnerable. Older adults, people with underlying health conditions, people working out there in the community who have to be there, can’t work from home, can’t isolate as easily as others,” he explained.
Van Deusen added while supply is steadily increasing, demand still currently outpaces supply. Pharmacy owners like Perrone are urging patience.
“It’s all going to work out. We’ll have plenty of vaccines here. A lot of other locations have vaccines,” she said.
Another recommendation from health officials is to sign up for a vaccine on multiple lists.