All Texas residents age 50 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting March 15. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
In addition to Texans over age 50, all health care workers, school teachers, child care workers and those with underlying medical conditions will become eligible to be vaccinated. As of March 10, 4.7 million Texans, or about 21% of all eligible adults, had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 2.5 million state residents, or about 11% of those age 16 and older, were fully vaccinated.
In a news release, the Texas Department of State Health Services said the move continues an effort to protect those most at risk of death if they were to contract the virus. To date, 93% of the state’s 44,000-plus COVID-19 fatalities have been individuals age 50 and older, and individuals age 50-64 represent 20% of all fatalities.
“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, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and chair of the TDSHS Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, in the release.
On March 2, during an announcement that he would be lifting statewide business capacity restrictions and mask mandates, Gov. Greg Abbott said that by the end of the month, every Texan age 65 and older who wants a vaccine should be able to receive one.
With the addition of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the supply coming weekly to Texas, allocations have increased. DSHS allocated more than 1 million doses to providers across the state for the week of March 8 after sending out about 676,000 doses the week of March 1.
The newly eligible age group, residents age 50-64, represents Phase 1C of the state’s vaccine rollout plan. Local public health officials in Austin have previously said they expected 1C to include essential workers. It is unclear if the state plans to include essential workers as eligible for the vaccine in the coming days.