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Starting March 15, the state of Texas will allow those ages 50 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Phase 1C of its plan. 

“We’ve seen a remarkable decrease in the number of hospitalizations and deaths since people 65 and older started becoming fully vaccinated in January,” said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services and chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. “Expanding to ages 50 to 64 will continue the state’s priority of protecting those at the greatest risk of severe outcomes and preserving the state’s health care system.”

About 5 million Texans are ages 50-64, and more than 1 million of them are already vaccinated under other eligibility requirements. 

According to the state health department, more than 93 percent of Texas deaths directly caused by COVID-19 have been people 50 and older; those ages 50-64 account for 20 percent of all fatalities.

“By including this next most vulnerable group, Texas will continue to reduce the number of people who are hospitalized and die from the disease across all races, ethnicities and occupations” according to a state health department media release.

Vaccine providers have administered at least one vaccine dose to more than half of Texans ages 65 or older; 30 percent are fully vaccinated.

Currently, those in Phase 1A and Phase 1B categories — medical personnel, first responders, longterm care facility staff and residents, ages 65 and older, and ages 16 and older with serious medical conditions — as well as school and childcare workers are eligible for vaccines. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three vaccines for emergency use in the fight against the virus that causes COVID-19. Those are the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two doses, and, most recently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose.

Overall, Texas vaccine providers have administered more than 7 million doses, and about 2.5 million people are fully vaccinated.