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Tarrant County Public Health getting fewer COVID-19 vaccines as federal sites open

Eleanor Dearman, Brian Lopez
·4 min read

Tarrant and Dallas counties will get fewer COVID-19 vaccines from the state as federally supported sites prepare to administer shots at county megasites.

The state and Biden administration previously announced three vaccination sites supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. With the new sites opening, the state has opted to send much of Tarrant County’s allotment from the state elsewhere.

Tarrant County Public Health’s three vaccination hubs were down about 14,000 vaccines this week, county judge Glen Whitley said. After Whitley spoke with the state, Texas Health Resources gave the county 5,800 of its doses to administer this week.

The 5,800 vaccine doses will allow the county to administer first doses this week, but there is no certainty that the county will receive vaccines in the next two weeks, Whitley said. If the county does not receive more doses, the hub sites might shut down.

He believes the state should just send the allocations to counties and let them figure out the most efficient and effective way to get them in the arms of their citizens.

Texas Health, which is a Tarrant County Public Health partner, had its allocation increased by almost 2,000 doses this week. It had been receiving 9,750 each week compared to this week’s 11,700 doses.

The state increased the allocation of vaccines to hospitals and other vaccine providers but left the county’s hub sites out because of the FEMA sites, Whitley said.

With the three federal sites receiving more than 84,000 doses from FEMA, the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended sending additional doses to parts of the state that have not received nearly as much vaccine per person, DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said in an email. The state allocated doses to 230 counties this week, the most of any week thus far, Van Deusen said.

Whitley maintains that this wasn’t the understanding he had with state officials. He was told that the FEMA sites would not affect allocation to the county.

“It is frustrating,” he said. “We’re trying to get more and more vaccines.”

Texas’ three federal sites are at Globe Life Field and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Fair Park in Dallas and NRG Stadium in Houston. The Houston site has been allocated 41,210 doses. The North Texas sites will receive 21,060 doses for this week.

In addition to Texas Health Resources’ 11,700 doses, eight other providers in the county are getting a combined 5,110 doses.

In recent weeks, hub sites in Tarrant County have received 25,750 doses — 7,000 for the Arlington Fire Department, 9,000 for Tarrant County Public Health and 9,750 for Texas Health Resources.

In Dallas County, Judge Clay Jenkins is dealing with the same situation.

“All we’re asking is that the allotment that our citizens get — based on our population — not be diminished,” Jenkins said. “Why can’t we get our fair share from the state and have the feds help us reach herd immunity?”

Dallas County could reach herd immunity by the middle of June if the county can vaccinate 65,000 a week, said Steve Miff, president and CEO of Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation at a press conference on Tuesday. Jenkins said this won’t be possible if the state continues to withhold vaccines from the county. With a reduced state allocation to Dallas County, the county as a whole would only do about 45,000 a week.

The state would also create discrimination against the middle class and above households, if they don’t release vaccine to the county health departments, Jenkins said. The FEMA sites will exclusively target minority and low-income populations.

Van Deusen pointed out that, with the FEMA site doses, providers in Dallas and Tarrant Counties are getting more doses than the week prior — 37,870 in Tarrant compared to 27,950 last week. Tarrant County Public Health also has doses from last week that were either not used or shipped late by the CDC due to the winter storm, Van Deusen said.

The storm and outages also pushed back the official opening for Arlington’s vaccination site from Wednesday to Friday, Fire Chief Don Crowson told Arlington City Council Tuesday evening. The site will have a soft opening Wednesday and Thursday at Globe Life Field due to scheduling conflicts at AT&T Stadium.

After the soft opening, Crowson said, “We’ll just run full speed for eight weeks until we get the job done.”

City emergency officials are training around 140 military personnel FEMA officials deployed to work at the site and will manage the site. Crowson said the site is expected to administer both rounds of the vaccine to over 63,000 people.

For vaccinations at the federal sites, FEMA will pull from the county’s waiting list to target minority and low income populations. But it’s local officials who are better equipped to reach out to underserved communities, said Commissioner Roy Brooks at a Tuesday meeting.

It remains to be seen whether the state amends its allocation strategy for the coming week, but Vinny Taneja, the county’s public health director, told commissioners he is expecting a revision.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.