Texas would like 1 million COVID-19 vaccines a week, senior state health official says

So far, 2.75 million Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 620,000 are fully vaccinated.

By John C. Moritz, USA TODAY NETWORK

Texas could use up to 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines a week to better keep up with demand and speed the state's race to herd immunity from the deadly virus, a senior health official said Thursday.

So far, the state has received far less than that. This week, Texas received 520,425 doses from the federal government, sent to 344 providers in 166 counties. 

"We are advocating and really fighting for each and every dose," said Imelda Garcia, the state's associate health commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services. She also chairs the state's Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. "I would love for us to be (receiving) a million doses a week."

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Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Garcia made the remark during an electronic question-and-answer session with reporters as she updated the state's efforts so far to vaccinate as many Texans as possible.

The priority, she said, is to focus much of the effort on vaccinating people 65 and older as well as those with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if infected.

To date, Garcia said, an estimated 2.75 million Texans have received at least one shot of the two-dose regimen and 620,000 have been fully vaccinated. She estimated that 1 in 4 Texans 65 and older and 1 in 3 people 80 and up have received at least a first dose.

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"We can do better, and we know that," Garcia said.

Once vaccinated, she added, people should still maintain the now-familiar safety protocols: keep hands clean, wear a mask in public and practice social distancing.

Eleven months into the pandemic, more than 2.1 million Texans have contracted the virus, and nearly 37,300 have died.

Health officials are monitoring infections to determine if mutations, or variants, of the virus that first surfaced overseas are gaining footholds in Texas. The United Kingdom variant has been detected in Austin, among other places in Texas, local health officials said Wednesday.

Asked if front-line workers were seeing instances of people exaggerating health problems to, in effect, cut the line, Garcia said vaccine distribution in such cases follows the honor system.

"We don't ask people to give us their whole medical history or have a doctor's note that indicates that they are eligible" for the vaccination, she said. "We do take them at their word."

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But Garcia discouraged cutting in line.

"We know that there might be some people that are misrepresenting their health conditions," she added. "But at the end of the day, we want people to realize we have very limited vaccines.

"We ask that if you are not eligible right now, please be patient. More vaccine is coming each and every week."