Here’s what you need to know about who is eligible and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas

TEXAS TRIBUNE – Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine began arriving in Texas in mid-December, marking a significant milestone in the battle against the virus. But it will be months before vaccine doses are widely available, and the rollout is leaving eligible Texans with more questions than answers.

For now, the limited supply is reserved for front-line health care workers and certain high-risk populations.

State health officials announced just before Christmas that older people and those with qualifying health conditions are next in line.

Who is eligible for the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas?

Texas is currently in Phase 1A of its vaccine distribution. Only front-line health care workers and long-term care residents and staff are eligible to receive doses of the vaccine at this time.

Phase 1B will prioritize Texans who are 65 years and older and people who are at least 16 with a qualifying health condition that puts them at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, qualifying conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathy
  • Solid organ transplantation
  • Obesity and severe obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

I meet the Phase 1B eligibility. When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Texans in group 1B are eligible to receive doses of the vaccine as of Dec. 21, according to state health officials. But supplies are in short order and likely will be for weeks.

There are about 1.9 million eligible Texans in Phase 1A, which is more than the state’s current allocation of 1.4 million doses through the end of the month. That means the state is still focusing its current resources on vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents.

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Check with your health care provider.

The vaccine will be available at a range of health care providers — like health clinics and hospitals — but most people will likely get vaccinated at their doctor’s office or a pharmacy. The Texas Department of Emergency Management on Wednesday published a map with vaccine providers across the state, but the agency warns those hoping to schedule an appointment that they should check directly with the facility about availability.

We’ve heard from a number of Texans who have been unable to make an appointment to get a vaccine in their areas. Keep trying in the weeks to come — the state is expected to get more vaccines over the next few months and more and more people will be eligible. If you’re having a hard time scheduling an appointment, let us know: We may want to speak with you for a news story. Please email us about your experience at [email protected]

CVS, Walgreens and PharmScript are working with the federal government directly to deliver vaccinations to long-term care facilities. Those doses should begin to be administered on Dec. 28.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that more than 7,200 providers across the state had enrolled to administer vaccine doses when they become available.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer dollars be given at no cost. But providers are allowed to charge an administration fee, which can be reimbursed through insurance. People without insurance will not be charged, according to DSHS.

For people covered under Medicare or Medicaid, the federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine and any fees.

Texas’ COVID-19 vaccination plan requires providers to administer the vaccine “regardless of the vaccine recipient’s ability to pay COVID-19 vaccine administration fees.”

Who decides who is eligible to receive doses of the vaccine?

Decisions on how doses of the vaccine are allocated are made by a state panel of advisers — including lawmakers, state and local health officials, and medical experts and researchers. The group, known as the Expert Vaccine Advisory Panel, provides recommendations for final approval by DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. Although some Texans have expressed hesitancy toward the vaccine, health experts and public officials widely agree that the vaccine is safe. The two currently approved developers — Pfizer and Moderna — reported their vaccines are 95% and 94% effective, respectively.

While no vaccine is without side effects, clinical trials for both Pfizer and Moderna show serious reactions are rare.

Abbott on Tuesday received his first dose of the vaccine, telling reporters, “I will never ask a Texan to do something I’m not willing to do myself.”

When will Texas get more COVID-19 vaccine doses?

New doses of the vaccine will continue to arrive in Texas over the coming months. Public health experts estimate it will take between six and nine months for the vaccine to be widely available to everyone who wants it.

Janelle B. Smith

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