The new year begins as the pandemic continues to ravage the region, but North Texans can at least look forward to one good thing in 2021: vaccines.
Earlier this week, Texas' Department of State Health Services announced that people 65 and older or those with chronic medical conditions can get vaccinated, marking the beginning of its distribution plan’s Phase 1B.
There was just one problem, though, said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins: The state didn’t provide enough doses.
“It’s been very confusing for the public as to how they get the vaccine,” Jenkins said. “It is a little hit or miss."
Health care workers fall under Phase 1A and are still first in line for inoculation, Jenkins said. That leaves people in the next phase to root out for themselves any leftover vaccines at hospitals or medical clinics.
Phase 1B includes people 65 years and older and those 16 years and older who have at least one chronic medical condition, such as cancer or diabetes. Obese people with a body mass index of 30 or higher can also sign up.
As vaccine distribution is underway, the number of ICU beds continues to shrink.
Thursday morning, there were 14 adult ICU beds left in Dallas County, Jenkins said. That same day, the county’s health department reported 1,774 new cases and 17 COVID-related deaths.
“We’re at probably our worst levels that we’ve been at … in North Texas since the pandemic began,” Jenkins said.
Last week, Texas-bound shipments of the Moderna vaccine were delayed because they’d been stored outside the recommended temperature range, according to Austin NBC affiliate KXAN. The federal government had to replace 4,300 doses.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced weeks apart. By Thursday, 19,585 people in Dallas County had received one shot, but no one has yet been fully vaccinated, according to the state health department’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard.
Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County’s health department, said the county isn’t to the point where it can freely distribute vaccines to those who are part of Phase 1B. First, it must get through its large number of health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents.
“We’re all trying to get it as fast as we can,” Huang said.
Some North Texans have been able to find extra vaccines, though. Because they have a short shelf-life, Jenkins said places with doses to spare will distribute them to eligible recipients after they’ve gone through those in Phase 1A.
Hospitals are less likely to have additional doses because of the large number of health care workers, he said. On the other hand, certain doctors’ offices and medical clinics with smaller staffs are more likely to offer them.
Those who have had an allergic reaction to other vaccines, such as the flu inoculation, should talk to their health care provider before signing up for this one, Jenkins said. It’s relatively similar to other vaccines, in that some people experience a headache, fever or chills that can last up to 24 hours.
People should try their best to be patient as they wait for their turn to get vaccinated, he said; there are a lot more people who are part of Phase 1B than there is the vaccine.
While they wait, Dallasites should continue to avoid large crowds and practice social distancing as they begin the new year, Jenkins added. It may not feel like it yet, but things are going to start getting better.
“Let’s all hope — and I feel confident — that 2021 is going to be a heck of a lot better year than 2020,” he said.
North Texans included in Phase 1B can look up where to get vaccinated on the state’s vaccine provider location map.
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