HOUSTON – The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Tuesday that everyone 16 and up will be eligible to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas beginning Monday, March 29.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said it expects vaccine supplies to increase in April to more than a million doses per week, well above the demand under current eligibility criteria.
“We certainly don’t want to lose that momentum that we’ve had,” said state health department spokesman Chris Van Deusen.
The state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended opening vaccination to everyone who falls under the current Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations in part because many state providers reported dwindling waitlists.
“As a matter of fact, we in Houston had pretty much exhausted our waitlists and we wanted to have more real-time appointments available,” said Houston Health Department director Stephen Williams, who is also a member of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel.
DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old or older when scheduling appointments and accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether or not they have an appointment, by immediately moving them to the front of the line. That will ensure vaccination of anyone 80 or older with as small a burden on themselves as possible.
Also next week, DSHS said it will launch a website to allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers in more rural communities. The public will be able to enroll in the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler to identify upcoming vaccine clinics hosted by DSHS or a participating local health department in those rural areas and they will be notified when new clinics and appointments become available.
Texans can continue to find vaccine providers throughout Greater Houston and sign up on waitlists through the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine.
Houston Methodist, consistently one of the area’s largest vaccine providers, will allow anyone to sign up on its waitlist but will prioritize those 50 and older for now.
“Those getting the sickest, we’re going to focus on that population here at Houston Methodist and not have it be first come, first served just yet,” said Roberta Schwartz, a Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at the hospital. “We expect to get there in a number of weeks. Likely more towards the middle of April or the end of April.”
To date, Texas has administered more than 9.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, equating to more than 6 million people with at least one dose and more than 3 million fully vaccinated. Most vaccines are authorized for people 18 years old and older; the FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in people 16 and older.
Texans ages 18 and up can sign up to receive the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson versions. The Pfizer vaccine is also available for those who are ages 16 and 17.