By Jason Allen

TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – The path to the front of the vaccination line is likely to change again in Tarrant County as health officials move toward what they call a more equitable approach.

The county health department plans to use the CDC Social Vulnerability Index to prioritize appointments. The index factors in income, disabilities, language and housing to identify areas that need more support during a disaster.

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A preliminary slide shown in a meeting of Tarrant County commissioners Tuesday highlighted areas on the south, east and near north sides of Fort Worth. They were different areas than those prioritized last week for appointments, identified as the areas with the highest case spread.

The plan to prioritize appointments out of a registration list that has now topped 400,000 people, prompted a flurry of complaints last week according to county judge Glen Whitley.

“I had all kinds of calls coming in last week about that and some of them weren’t friendly about it,” he said.

However Whitley said he wants to be flexible with rollout plans if it better serves county residents.

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Public health director Vinny Taneja said Tuesday that 50-percent of those registered from the hardest zip codes had already been given appointments. He expected that in the next week they would start to shift resources to areas identified as vulnerable.

The county has been using 25 to 50-percent of its available appointments for people on its priority list.

Taneja acknowledged Tuesday the spread of the virus has slowed locally, with hospitalizations, positive tests and other major data points all trending down.

He credited vaccinations with the drop in the public meeting, but later noted its still unknown how well the vaccine limits transmission. Less than one-percent of county residents have received both doses of the vaccine. He later noted that the end of holiday gatherings, along with compliance on public health recommendations likely contributed to the drop.

“So all of these factors combined are having an impact,” he said. “It’s not just one thing, but the vaccine is having an impact.”

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