FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Tarrant County elected officials expressed frustration Tuesday, Feb. 23, with a change in COVID-19 vaccine allocations that would not increase doses, and potentially limit the places where they are available.
As FEMA prepares to open a federal vaccine hub this week at Globe Life Field, the county is not receiving any new first doses of vaccine from the state.READ MORE: Former Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall Explains Why No Action Was Ever Taken Against Officer Bryan Riser, Now Charged With Capital Murder
Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said during a County Commissioners meeting he understood the county may not receive any doses for three weeks.
That could cause vaccine hubs that have been operating in Fort Worth, Hurst and Arlington for months, to shut down unless new doses are allocated.
Meanwhile, available doses would all be at the federal site in Arlington.
“I’m not going to say I was misled,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said Tuesday. “I’ll say that we were misunderstood. Because we made it very clear at every turn that these were 21,000 extra vaccines that were coming with the FEMA people and that it was not going to affect our weekly allocations from the state.”
Whitley said he would remain in contact with state officials this week and was hopefully they would reestablish allocations. County sites will operate this week, with 5,800 doses transferred to them by Texas Health Resources.
Whitley extended an executive order Tuesday requiring businesses to have a health and safety policy that includes wearing a face covering. The requirement, first ordered in late June, will now be in place until May 25.
Whitley said the order can be rescinded at any time if circumstances change.
Asked what might cause him to act to end the mask order, Whitley said the county needed to be closer to having 50% to 60% of the population vaccinated.
New data the health department updated Tuesday shows about 10% of county residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 4% have received the complete two dose regimen.READ MORE: Gov. Greg Abbott Responds To Criticism For Ending Mask Mandate, Fully Reopening Texas: 'There's Never Going To Be Uniform Agreement On This'
Whitley said he believes the county could be vaccinating up to 110,000 people a day, if it had the supply.
Registrations for the vaccine have slowed considerably though after strong demand during the beginning of the year.
About 45,000 people registered over the last two weeks, a number the county was seeing sometimes in as few as two days during early January.
Taneja said he thinks the initial group of registrants who were qualified and willing to be vaccinated has largely been exhausted. The county would have to motivate people now he said, to sign up.
Taneja also asked for county commissioners approval of a plan to start prioritizing vaccine appointments by where registrants fall on a Social Vulnerability Index, rather than when they sign up, or the case rate where they live.
The federal index uses factors including socioeconomic status, minority status, language, housing type and transportation, to identify those who may need more support during a disaster.
After first presenting the idea several weeks ago, the health department identified zip codes primarily on Forth Worth’s southeast side, and the east side of Arlington where county residents would be most vulnerable.
The priority plan would set aside up to 50% of available doses to go to people from those areas first, before anyone else who has signed up.
A previous zip code priority plan, based solely on zip codes with the highest case rates, prompted a surge of complaints to county officials.
Whitley and Commissioner Gary Fickes both questioned the percentage of doses being set aside for a plan Taneja said would be more equitable in how the vaccine is distributed.MORE NEWS: Visit Fort Worth Launches Campaign Promoting Businesses That Encourage Mask-Wearing
Taneja said if there were not enough registrants who fell under the SVI, remaining doses would not be held back but would continue to go to anyone who was qualified, in the order they registered.