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As the state expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone ages 16 and older this week, it also opened up the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler. Also on Monday, March 29, officials asked vaccine providers to move those 80 and older — Super Seniors — to the top of their waitlists or the front of the lines when they show up for a vaccination.

“This is regardless or not if they have an appointment,” said Imelda Garcia, the DSHS associate commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services and chair of the state’s expert vaccine allocation panel, at a news briefing. She was joined by Nancy Ejuma, deputy associate commissioner of Regional and Local Health Operations.

The vaccine scheduling website isn’t meant to replace other providers’ registration sites, Ejuma said. It offers a centralized location for Texans to sign up for vaccines through public health departments and DSHS partners. Many providers, including pharmacies, medical offices, and public health departments, that already operate their own registration sites can and will continue to do so.

On the state scheduler, users create a profile that includes their contact information, demographic details, and preferred time of day and days of the week for an appointment. A few days after a person is registered, the system will connect them to an available appointment within the county they reside.

If no appointments are available at that time, the scheduler will continue its search as new clinics and events are scheduled and then contact individuals when time slots open.

The state also set up a toll-free number at 833-832-7067 for those who have difficulty using the online registration portal. The phone line is available 7 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week. Those who can register online are asked to leave the phone line open for those who truly need assistance.

The scheduler allows DSHS and state agencies to identify clusters of people within specific communities who are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccination. The state can use that information to schedule vaccine clinics or events.

The state scheduler doesn’t replace other provider registration portals but offers another option for Texans to find a vaccine, officials emphasized. They recommend people who want to be vaccinated to continue to check other provider sites as well.

Other vaccine scheduling tools can be found on the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine Information webpage.
More vaccines are on the way, Garcia said. She expects vaccine availability to increase in April, including the addition of two new vaccines — AstraZeneca and Novavax — once they receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While the state and Texans have made big strides in the fight against COVID-19 and vaccination numbers continue to increase, Garcia reminded everyone that following protocols to slow the spread of the virus such as social distancing and wearing face coverings remain effective tools in the battle against the disease.

daniel@thepicayune.com