HOUSTON – State health officials are prioritizing seniors and people with serious illnesses in the latest phase of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
In the first phase, frontline health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities were eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1A.
In Phase 1B, as it’s being called, the vaccine is more widely available -- in facilities that have moved on to this phase -- to anyone 65 years of age or older and to people 16 years or age or older with at least one chronic medical condition. Those conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies.
- Solid organ transplantation.
- Obesity and severe obesity (BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher).
- Sickle cell disease.
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
“The focus on people who are age 65 and older or who have comorbidities will protect the most vulnerable populations,” said Imelda Garcia, chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel and the Department of State Health Services associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services. “This approach ensures that Texans at the most severe risk from COVID-19 can be protected across races and ethnicities and regardless of where they work.”
Officials said in December that it would likely be a few weeks before the transition to Phase 1B starts, depending on the amount of vaccine provided to Texas and how the vaccine is being taken among priority populations. Officials said there is an estimated 8 million people in the 1B group.
State leaders said that frontline workers will likely be part of the phase that follows 1B, but the timetable will depend on how much of the vaccine is available in the state.
“Not knowing how much inventory will show up is one of the negating factors for us to know that,” said Texas Medical Center president and CEO, William McKeon.
Houston Health Authority, Dr. David Persse said moving on to the next phase of vaccinations also depends on how quickly individual healthcare providers complete vaccinations of frontline healthcare workers.
“If you’re someone whose getting it from provider B and you’re seeing provider A has already gone on to another group, and yours’ hasn’t, just have a little bit of patience, they’re going to get you as soon as you can,” said Persse.
Persse said those who fall under the 1B category should be notified by their doctor as to when the vaccine will available. The concern is notifying those who fall into this category, but who don’t have a regular healthcare provider.
“A lot of work is being done right now as we sort of try to figure out ways to meet these challenges,” Persse said.
Texas’ recent decision goes against a Centers for Disease Control advisory panel’s recommendation that frontline workers, including teachers, police officers, firefighters and grocery store workers be next in line for the vaccine.
“I think that’s really good news that the CDC has recognized teachers are essential workers,” said the president of the Texas Federation of Teachers, Zeph Capo. “Unfortunately the committee making the decisions in Texas didn’t come to the same conclusion the CDC did.”
Texas has not yet decided who will be included in the phase that follows the 1B group.
More information can be found at dshs.texas.gov.