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COVID-19 vaccine in Texas: The state's tiers of who is next, tracking the numbers and more questions answered

The mega-site vaccine locations will be updated by the state health department.

Updated 4:27 p.m. Jan. 7 to include information on Phase 1B.

Most Texans are still waiting for their turn to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but next week the state is directing vaccines to sites that will vaccinate 100,000 people.

The mega-site locations, which start across the state on the week of Jan. 11, will be published on Friday by the state health department.

If a person is in Phase 1A or 1B, check the state website of vaccine providers.

"The goal of this plan is to provide more people the vaccine and a simpler way to sign up for an appointment," according to the state health department. "Providers will focus on vaccinating areas and populations hardest hit by COVID-19."

In North Texas, there will be a mass-vaccine site at Fair Park starting on Monday for Dallas County.

The county received confirmation for the new vaccine site Thursday morning and said that things are "evolving fast," according to a spokesperson for Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Go here to register on the waiting list and for more information. 

The vaccine rollout in Texas has been plagued by slow reporting, miscommunications and a lack of public information.

RELATED: Texas’s vaccine rollout plagued with problems; health experts look for solutions to fix it

Comments flooded the WFAA Facebook page complaining vaccine providers wouldn’t answer phones, that people couldn’t navigate maps and provider websites, and that doctors’ offices didn’t know where to find the vaccine.

The state health department advises people to remember:

  • Do not show up at a hospital or clinic looking for a vaccine.
  • Instead please check their website for information about vaccine availability.
  • Call only if the website doesn’t answer your questions.

Doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be periodically distributed across the Lone Star State, headed to hospitals, pharmacies, local health departments, freestanding emergency rooms and other clinics.

There is a website from the state health department which shows a map of the providers of the vaccine which have received a shipment. The state says you should contact the provider in advance to confirm vaccination locations, hours and your eligibility.

More than four weeks after Texas received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, more than 527,533 people in the state have received their first dose.

The state health department has a map that is updated daily with information about vaccine distribution and how many people have received doses in the state.

First to receive the vaccine were health care workers and long-term care residents are expected to receive vaccinations this week

Here's what WFAA knows about the vaccine in Texas, including the state's tiers for distribution, who's next, and answers to other commonly asked questions.

Texas COVID-19 vaccine tiers: 1A and 1B

Vaccinations began on Monday, Dec. 14 as part of phase 1A. The vaccine tiers information listed below was released by the state health department on Dec. 17.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, the state health department said that providers and go ahead and provide vaccines to people in Phase 1B.

Phase 1B includes people 65 years of age and older, and people over age 16 with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at greater risk, according to the state health department.

Phase 1A - First-tier health care workers and long-term care residents include:  

  • Unpaid and paid workers in hospital settings working directly with patients who are positive or at high-risk for COVID-19.

    This includes physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other support staff such as custodians. 

  • Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents like at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and state-supported living centers. That’s also physicians, nurses, personal care assistants, custodial and food service staff. 

  • EMS providers who engage in 911 services like pre-hospital care and transport. 

  • Home health care workers, including hospice care, who interact with vulnerable and high-risk patients. 

  • Residents of long-term care facilities.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccinations at long-term care facilities to start after Christmas

Phase 1A - Second-tier health care workers include:

  • Staff in outpatient care settings who interact with symptomatic patients, such as physicians, nurses and other support staff, clinical services that provide diagnostics, laboratory, and/or rehabilitation services, non-911 transport for routine care and health care workers in corrections and detention facilities. 

  • Direct care staff in freestanding emergency medical and urgent care facilities 

  • Community pharmacy staff who provide direct services to customers, including vaccinations or testing for COVID-19 

  • Public health and emergency response staff directly involved in administering COVID-19 tests and vaccines. 

  • “Last responders” who provide mortuary or death services to people who have COVID-19 and died. That includes embalmers, funeral home workers, medical examiners and other medical certifiers who have direct contact with a person who has died. 

  • School nurses who provide health care to students and teachers. 

Phase 1B - people over 65 years old and people over 16 with at least one chronic medical condition

Both Phase 1A and 1B recipients are currently eligible for the vaccine, the state health department said Tuesday.

Those in Phase 1B includes people 65 years and older and people over 16 with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. 

That includes, but is not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
  • Solid organ transplantation
  • Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

How was it decided who gets the vaccine and when?

The state health department said that Texas will allocate the vaccines that are in limited supply based on protecting health care workers, front-line workers and vulnerable populations. 

The plan also aims to mitigate health inequities such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography. The allocations are data-driven with the best scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, the state said. 

How were hospitals chosen? And how many doses were distributed?

For the first week of vaccinations, the state health department focused on facilities that indicated that they will vaccinate at least 975 front-line health care workers since that is the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine. 

Twenty-three health care facilities were selected to receive more than 220,000 doses.

The Moderna vaccine was authorized ahead of the second week of vaccine distribution and was available in batches of 100. That authorization added more vaccines to providers across the state.

Texas health officials said they'd receive more than 620,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the second week of distribution, almost 160,000 were the Pfizer vaccine and over 460,000 were from Moderna.

Officials said doses were delivered to more than 1,100 health care centers across 185 Texas counties in week 2.

The number of doses for week 3 are far lower, around 363,000, state health officials said. Of those, 159,100 is the Moderna vaccine and 203,775 is Pfizer's.

DSHS said initial shipments were larger because of what had been manufactured prior to distribution.

RELATED: Environment services worker at Methodist Dallas is first to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

When do vaccines begin for long-term care facilities?

Some residents of long-term care facilities in Texas were vaccinated last week.

Some facilities have partnered with a federal program to vaccinate long-term care residents and staff. The program by the Center for Disease Control is called the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program. 

Some of the program’s first vaccines will go to pharmacies the week of Dec. 21. The program will begin Dec. 28, according to Gov. Greg Abbott. 

RELATED: 'Wheel and spoke' | Pharmacies teaming up with CDC to vaccinate our most vulnerable; here's how it's being done in Texas

When will everyone else get the vaccine?

The state health department said it will be a matter of months to manufacture and distribute enough vaccines for everyone who wants to be vaccinated.

The department said that spring 2021 is the best estimate, but it could change depending on vaccine production and how quickly other vaccines become available.

RELATED: Vaccinations provide moments of hope, relief to healthcare workers

How can you get a vaccine if you’re a medical worker who doesn’t work at a hospital?

If you're a dental worker or another worker who is in health care but haven't received a chance to get a vaccine, the state health department says to contact your health care provider to see if they are enrolled to give the vaccine.

The North Texas public health region has an estimated 188,431 health care personnel, 18,421 EMS personnel, 94,642 acute care hospital employees, 42,431 nursing home residents and 1.1 million adults over the age of 65. 

Do I have to get a vaccine?

No, the vaccine is voluntary.

Does it cost? What if you don't have insurance?

The vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance status, the state health department said.

Can you get the vaccine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?

Currently, there are limited data available on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant, according to the Center for Disease Control.

People who are pregnant may choose to be vaccinated. If they have questions around getting vaccinated, a discussion with a health care provider might help them make an informed decision.

How were the vaccines tested in clinical trials?

All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people to make sure they meet safety standards and protect adults of different races, ethnicities, and ages, including adults over the age of 65, who participated in the clinical trials, according to the CDC. There were no serious safety concerns.

 After a review of all the available information, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC agreed the lifesaving benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for LTCF residents outweigh the risks of possible side effects.

The CDC says that as of Nov. 24, there are large-scale clinical trials in progress or being planned for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and Janssen's COVID-19 vaccine.

What are the side effects of the vaccine? 

Fatigue, muscle pain, fever and chills are some of the side effects. The most common side effects during clinical trials were pain at the injection site and signs and symptoms like fever and chills, according to the CDC.

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