One obvious vaccine distribution policy is to prioritize Covid-19 vaccinations in the communities where the virus is most prevalent. In a completely logical approach, Dallas County Health officials shifted their vaccine strategy to focus on the hardest-hit areas. In response, state officials threatened to cut vaccine supply unless Dallas reversed the policy.
Dallas tried to do the right thing with Covid vaccine distribution, but Texas state officials blocked the effort.
Republican Commissioner J.J. Koch proposed prioritizing vaccine distribution in the zip codes with the highest number of Covid cases. The Dallas County Commissioners Court approved the plan until state officials from the Department of State Health Services pushed back. Texas DSHS officials vetoed the plan and threatened to reduce the number of doses delivered to the county.
Dallas County released vaccination data broken down by ZIP code showing the majority of vaccines were going to white, affluent areas. While the new Covid case data did not include racial demographics, it demonstrated 11 local zip codes with high Covid prevalence rates.
These zip codes include areas with large communities of people of color. The Dallas County health department attempted to prioritize vaccinating the predominately Black and Latinx neighborhoods at its Fair Park vaccination hub.
The Texas Tribune reports Texas state officials threatened to reduce vaccine distribution to Dallas Country unless it reversed the policy. Faced with the threat of losing crucial vaccine supply, Dallas County officials relented and changed course.
DSHS Associate Commissioner Imelda Garcia issued an attempted explanation stating, “While we ask hub providers to ensure 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.”
It is important to note the Dallas Country strategy never proposed vaccinating only the residents in the 11 zip codes. Increasing the vaccine supply in the Fair Park location would have only simply increased the vaccine supply in areas geographically closer to the affected neighborhoods.
The CDC has continued to report data showing an almost five times higher risk of severe disease and hospitalization in people of color. Dallas County attempted to focus the vaccine strategy to help these communities.
Dallas had a chance to prioritize vaccinating the communities that need it the most.
Can someone explain why Texas said no?