Dallas County’s Department of Health will begin prioritizing residents in the predominantly black and latino areas for the COVID-19 vaccine in Fair Park because many shots were going to residents of northern communities, according to early data.
In a split vote, the commissioners moved the county’s effort to vaccinate anyone who meets state-wide criteria – so long as they agreed with the county to get a vaccine and the 10 zip codes identified Tuesday Are registered to live in one of the. The county first focused on vaccinations residents 75 and older.
Zip codes are either wholly or partially below Interstate 30 – which for decades divided the county by race and wealth. They were selected because they either rank high on the county’s coronovirus vulnerability index, which keeps track of how likely a resident is to catch COVID, or one released by the county and Parkland Health and Hospital System Due to long-standing health disparities in the report. Last year.
The change in the county’s vaccination priorities was sponsored by Commissioner JJ Koch, a Republican who represents North Dallas County. It is the latest remaking of the county’s vaccination effort in Fair Park, which began Jan. 11.
After the release of vaccination data by Dallas County it was decided that the zip code was broken, causing most of the shots to go to residents of white and affluent areas such as Preston Holo. The data did not include specific demographics such as race, gender, and age.
Although Koch said he hopes his order will simplify the process, it is sure to inject more uncertainty into an already cluttered vaccination program driven by mixed messages and quick changes. The move effectively cuts off residents in most municipalities in the county, who are donating personnel to help run the vaccine site.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, who previously criticized the county’s handling of the vaccination site, declined to comment on Tuesday.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who trailed by a 3-1 vote, said he expected the county to begin appointing 27,000 residents from the zip code next week who are registered for a vaccine. Jenkins said the county does not see a dramatic increase in vaccines from the state or that additional residents in those neighborhoods have been registered for appointments, which will take at least a month.
The state is providing vaccines to any doctor or nurse with COVID-19 patients, other health care workers, and Texas 65 or older or exposed to a major health condition such as cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease.
Thousands of residents have either already made appointments or received an invitation to do so under the current norms this week and beyond. And during the debate, Jenkins suggested that the rescheduling could violate the county’s contract with the state, requiring the site to vaccinate any Texas resident.
The state’s health department did not request a comment.
Commissioner Elba Garcia, a Democrat who represents Dallas County, voted against the proposed change, saying she relied on the Department of Health to find the most similar mix of residents to get the shot.
“I don’t want to explain what the department can do,” she said.
The county should honor its current appointments and invitations, Koch said in an interview after the meeting. He also suggested that Parkland and UT Southwestern Medical Center could vaccinate other high-needs populations. And he indicated an immediate openness to change the county’s priority – until all five members of the Court of Commissioners had a chance to weigh in.
“The brutality I introduced was very simple,” the coach said. He said, ‘This is insufficient in short order. Changes are being worked on, but they will work with not just the county judge, but the five county commissioners. “
Since the vaccines were approved by the federal government late last year, Koch has been complicit with Jenkins about how to prioritize limited supplies. Previously, he suggested that the county should focus on essential workers such as grocery store clerks. Blacks and Latino who live in poor neighborhoods are likely to work these blue collar jobs and be susceptible to the worst COIDID symptoms.
As the coronovirus epidemic has reached North Texas, Koch and fellow commissioners have resented Jenkins for taking unilateral action. As a county judge, Jenkins has broad rights in emergency cases. Last spring, commissioners limited some of Jenkins’ power.
Tuesday’s debate echoed that frustration.
“We just don’t own what happened last week,” Koch told Jenkins during one of the most frenzied exchanges on the court in months. “And after all that happened we need to take ownership.”
The scene quickly spiraled out of control during its opening week at Fair Park, officials acknowledged. First, residents who did not meet the county’s initial criteria for reservations made 75 or older for the vaccine using unauthorized links to the registration system. After the discovery of Glitch, Jenkins and his team decided to open the site to more than 75 people regardless of appointment.
In an effort to boost the number of blacks and Latino vaccinated during the first week, Jenkins and county employees quietly reached out to faith leaders, state lawmakers and others along those communities. News that an appointment at Fair Park was no longer needed quickly spread on social media, backfiring to correct Jenkins’ plan.
The location of Fair Park was initially chosen to allow blacks and Latino living in southern neighborhoods to have a chance to receive the vaccine with limited access to pharmacies, grocery stores and health clinics.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the county was determined to extend access to the vaccine to anyone with more than 65 serious medical conditions.
County Health Director Drs. Philip Huang told the commissioners that his team was weighing invitations for race and ethnicity as well as geography. Huang said the highlight of the Order of Codes code was now already being overlapped by the county in its most recent invitations.
“I want to vaccinate everyone, but we have to make some decisions,” Huang defended the county’s decision to initially vaccinate only those 75 and older vaccines. “And we want to make the biggest impact.”
Commissioner John Willie Price, a Democrat who represents southern Dallas, said that as long as the county focuses on those 75 and older, Black residents will be left behind.
“We’re not getting 75’s,” Price said, referring to a lower life expectancy for blacks.