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22 Jan, 2021 04:01

Dallas County scraps effort to focus vaccine rollout on ‘vulnerable’ black & Latino communities under pressure from Texas govt

Dallas County scraps effort to focus vaccine rollout on ‘vulnerable’ black & Latino communities under pressure from Texas govt

Dallas County, Texas has jettisoned a plan to prioritize its most “vulnerable” neighborhoods in its Covid-19 vaccination drive after the state health department fought the idea, threatening to cut back its supply of the jab.

Though county officials voted earlier this week to focus the vaccine rollout on 11 of the most at-risk ZIP codes of Dallas, namely in black and Latino communities, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) intervened to stop the move, calling it “not acceptable.”

“While we ask hub providers to ensure [the] vaccine reaches the hardest hit areas and populations, solely vaccinating people who live in those areas is not in line with the agreement to be a hub provider,” DSHS associate commissioner Imelda Garcia wrote to county health officials in a letter obtained by the Texas Tribune. 

If Dallas County is unable to meet these expectations, we will be forced to reduce the weekly vaccine allocation to Dallas County Health and Human Services and no longer consider it a hub provider.

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Health department spokesman Chris Van Deusen also noted that, under the vaccine distribution deal reached between state and local governments, “All hub providers agreed to vaccinate people without regard to where they live,” adding that although “we directed them to ensure they are vaccinating people in the hardest hit areas and populations,” the county “cannot do that to the exclusion of literally everyone else.”

Under pressure from the state, Dallas County leaders agreed to abandon the targeted vaccination plan during an emergency meeting late on Wednesday, with county judge Clay Jenkins convincing officials to scrap the idea to ensure Dallas obtains its next shipment of shots.

“I'm not willing to risk the vaccine for tens of thousands of people over the next few weeks because you guess that your order is good enough to satisfy the state,” Jenkins told Commissioner J.J. Koch at the contentious meeting.

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While the county government is responsible for only one-tenth of vaccine distribution in Dallas, with the vast majority tasked to hospitals and other health facilities, officials aimed to emphasize their efforts in neighborhoods south of Dallas’ Interstate 30, which divides the county along racial and socio-economic lines, according to the Dallas Morning News. The plan was further spurred on after Dallas released vaccination data broken down by ZIP code, finding that the bulk of the shots were distributed in more affluent neighborhoods. 

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that Texas has distributed some 2.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, while 1.4 million shots have been administered so far. The state as a whole has reported in excess of 2.2 million infections since its outbreak began and nearly 33,000 deaths, ranking it number-two nationwide for its cumulative case and fatality counts, behind only California.

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