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In Texas, High Demand For Vaccine Tangles With Scattered Distribution, Lack Of Statewide Plan

people in line wearing masks, waiting for a vaccine
Julia Reihs
People in Austin wait in line for vaccinations at the Delco Activity Center. Some had appointments, while others did not, and there was confusion about whether those without appointments would be able to get vaccinated.

The Houston Chronicle's Jay Root says 28 new vaccine hubs across the state should make it easier for more people to get vaccinated more quickly.

From Texas Standard:

Like the pandemic in general, the current rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas has been chaotic. The state is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to control who gets the vaccine when. But many eligible people are still waiting for shots, says Houston Chronicle investigative reporter Jay Root.

As of Thursday, Texas has administered over 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to over 889,000 people. Over 132,000 people have been fully vaccinated with both doses, according to the Department of State Health Services COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.

Root says demand for the vaccines far surpasses how much is available. Under CDC guidelines, Texas health care workers, people 65 years and older, as well as people 16 years and older at severe risk of health complications from COVID-19 can get vaccinated as part of the Phase 1 rollout.

On one hand, the demand shows that people are willing to get vaccinated, which has been a concern among public health officials because of widely circulating vaccine misinformation. But now, Root says the lack of a national or statewide plan has made it hard to get the vaccine to the people who need it.

"What it's led to is a lot of frustration and, frankly, anger," Root said. "Nothing has gone as planned. There doesn't seem to be a plan."

Texas is now trying to fix that with vaccine "hubs" – 28 across the state where eligible people can sign up to get on a list for vaccinations. Root says the hubs could help fix the distribution problem. Shipments have been going straight to health care providers, so it's been unclear who has the vaccine and how much of it. The hubs will bring more vaccines to a central location.

There have been instances of people jumping the line to get vaccinated before they're eligible. In one case, Root says a person in Austin received the vaccine because it was going to go to waste, which goes back to the problem of distribution.

"You know, if you don't use it quickly ... because of the refrigeration requirements, it goes bad," he said.

But Root feels confident that as more vaccines are manufactured, distribution will improve.

"I believe it will get better," Root said. "And that's what the health authorities are telling us, that it will get better as more supply comes online. But there's just more people who want this than there is vaccine available."

This story has been updated to reflect the most recent COVID-19 vaccination data.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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