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Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls

The Texas State Department of Health Services is directing vaccine hubs, such as the one at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls, and other COVID-19 vaccine providers to put an emphasis on vaccinating residents 75 years and older as they are some of the most susceptible to severe complications associated with the disease. Photo courtesy of Baylor Scott & White Health

Texans ages 75 years and older are now the focus of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination program, said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease at the Texas Department of State Health Services. She made the announcement during a media briefing Thursday, Feb. 4. 

Older adults are much more likely to develop serious complications from COVID-19, Garcia said. As of Feb. 4, more than 900,000 Texans ages 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which requires a second dose for full efficacy. 

The state is anticipating delivery of 400,000 more first-round doses next week from the federal government. DSHS will continue to distribute the vaccine through its hub system, which can inoculate thousands of people a day, but also will ship doses to other providers that are in a better position to target older residents. 

As of Feb. 4, about 2.75 million Texans have received a vaccination, up by 700,000 in just the previous week. About 2.1 million were first doses only, and approximately 600,000 are fully vaccinated, Garcia said.

The state is still currently only vaccinating residents in the Phase 1A and Phase 1B categories, which includes first responders, medical personnel, people 65 years and older, people 16 years and older with chronic health issues, and pregnant women.

Along with the regular allotment of vaccine doses, the state also could get additional amounts through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Those doses will be distributed through CVS, Walmart, H-E-B, and Good Neighbor Pharmacy. 

Nationwide, the government plans to distribute 1 million doses through these four chains. The amount each pharmacy will get has not yet been announced. Garcia added that the shipments to retail stores will be in addition to hub distribution. 

“It will not deduct from vaccines we’ll be getting (for hubs),” she said. 

Garcia also addressed second dose allocations.

“What we put on our website as allocations are first doses,” she said.

So when the DSHS said it expects to get 400,000 doses the week of Feb. 8, that refers to first-round doses. Providers order second-round doses based on the timing and number of first-round doses. About 94 percent of Texans qualified for second doses have received them. 

Even if the second round falls a little outside of the six-week window, Garcia said it’s important the individual return for the second shot.

“Get the second dose as soon as you can,” she said. “(If you miss your appointed time), you don’t have to start over. If it’s seven weeks or eight weeks, just get (the second dose).”

A moratorium on establishing more hubs in the state could be lifted soon. Regions with no distribution hubs nearby are once again being considered. The biggest factor in adding hubs really comes down to the amount of vaccine available, Garcia said.

daniel@thepicayune.com