Severe Vaccine Shortages Projected in Dallas and Tarrant Counties Under Current State Distribution Plan, New Report Shows

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Anyone can agree that any vaccine distribution plan is better than none, but a new report shows that some North Texas counties may fall short.

Of the 10 counties in Texas that are most at risk of serious vaccine deficiencies, Dallas, Collin and Tarrant counties were rated 3, 4 and 5, respectively. Counties Harris and Travis were the top two, while Denton County came in 7th.

Data science company Cogitativo compared its own vaccine distribution model to that recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most states, including Texas, have adopted most of the ACIP guidelines.

However, Cogitativo claims its model is better suited to vulnerable populations, and many Texas counties are at risk of vaccine deficiencies.

During “the most complex health challenge of our time,” states need the right tools to accurately assess needs, said Gary Velasquez, CEO of Cogitativo. Whether they live in a city or in the countryside, every resident deserves equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The data is clear: without a more specific approach to vaccine allocation, many of the most at risk – often in color communities and rural areas – are being overlooked,” Velasquez said in a press release.

Still, many states are struggling to keep up with the challenges posed by COVID-19, and the report says there is a lack of a way to accurately determine the number of high-risk residents in each county. Without a foolproof system, preventable deaths will continue to occur.

A quarter of all counties in Texas are likely to experience vaccine shortages according to the state’s current distribution protocol, the report shows. All counties with these deficits are likely to have a combined shortage of more than 723,140 doses.

“”[People] I need the state to give Dallas and Tarrant Counties their lawful allocation of vaccines. – Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins

Texas could save lives if it implemented a distribution model based on both clinical data and social determinants of health, such as access to fresh food and air quality, according to the report. With a distribution model based on these factors, the state could avoid more than 69,626 additional hospital stays. More than 57,670 additional lives could also be saved.

The distribution of vaccines in North Texas has been rocky lately, partly due to last week’s devastating winter weather. And when federal vaccination centers appeared in Dallas and Tarrant counties, the Texas Department of Health reduced state-allocated supplies.

By the end of June, Dallas County could achieve herd immunity, which means enough population has gained immunity to COVID-19 through infection or vaccination. District Judge Clay Jenkins said this can only happen if the state returns those allocated shots.

But if those doses continue to be withheld, Jenkins said north Texas won’t reach herd immunity until late August or September. The difference that would affect people’s lives and the region’s economic performance would be “astronomical,” he said.

Usually federal aid doesn’t change the way the state distributes resources, Jenkins added. For example, Texas would not normally take away a school’s money for a scholarship. It also wouldn’t deplete the state-assigned body cameras, as law enforcement got federal funding for more.

“What they have done here is unprecedented and at a time when people really need help,” said Jenkins. “You need the state to give Dallas and Tarrant Counties their rightful allocation of vaccines.”

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Simone Carter, a Dallas Observer news reporter, graduated from the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis’ kind of blue.

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