Note: This is rapidly changing information. The Tyler Loop will publish monthly updates as needed.
COVID-19 vaccinations are still in short supply nationwide. Smith Co. has half-vaccinated 15,451 people and fully vaccinated 3,530 people as of Sunday, Jan. 24. The county receives about 4,000 doses of vaccine per week and each person needs two doses.
Finding a place to get the shot can feel like a game of whac-a-mole. This information will help you know what’s available and where you can go.
About the Vaccine
Let’s start with some basic vaccine facts. The two vaccines currently in use both require two shots taken three to four weeks apart. As four recently-vaccinated US representatives found out the hard way after being locked down with mask skeptics during the insurrection, the vaccine takes two weeks to take effect. Let’s be clear: No going straight from the doctor’s office to a bar hop celebration.
Here’s the great news: The vaccines prevent about 95% of people who would otherwise become ill from developing symptoms. Even the 5% who still get sick generally have less severe symptoms.
The not-as-great news: The emergency use studies were focused on safety and illness prevention. We don’t know whether the vaccine is a magic bullet which prevents infection completely or just lessens it to asymptomatic levels, which are still contagious to others. For now, we still have to mask and social distance even after vaccination (but there are a lot of studies taking place to learn more).
Your chances of a serious side effect are about the same as hitting the lottery: 11 in 1,000,000. Side effects like swelling or soreness are similar to the flu shot and about as common.
The Rollout Plan
Vaccinating 200 million people is a huge logistical undertaking. Each week, the federal government tells the manufacturers how much vaccine to send to each state. The states determine how much vaccine to send to each site doing vaccination. The states also determine the order in which people qualify for the vaccine.
Currently, Texas says the vaccine is for only frontline workers and vulnerable populations; however, the definition of these terms is broad and encompasses a huge swath of the population. The Texas Department of State Health Services’ goal is to eventually vaccinate all Smith Co. residents over 15 years old — 181,426 people.
Major hospitals and health departments are setting up large scale vaccination sites. Pharmacies, primary care physicians and similar facilities will provide the vaccine to patients, and major employers may make it available to workers.
The reality may be a bit more chaotic than the plan. The CDC doesn’t currently actually know how many doses of vaccine are available. As manufacturing ramps up and additional vaccines are approved, supply is expected to expand in the coming months. But right now, Texas’s allocation actually decreased this week by 121,875 doses. The large pharmacy chains have been focused on big contracts to do nursing homes. All of these plans are expected to change significantly.
|Cumulative vaccine distribution in Smith County, TX.|
|Half-Doses Allocated||Doses Administered|
|Health Center (Community, Federally Qualified, Migrant, Rural)||100||198|
|Medical Clinic/Doctor’s Office||2,900||2,745|
How to get the vaccine
There is no unified list. How, where and when you will get vaccinated is almost solely for each person to determine and take action.
All vaccinations are by appointment only. Once scheduled, you will arrive, complete some paperwork and health questions, get the shot, and wait 15 minutes. You’ll make an appointment for the second dose before you leave. Remember: No partying yet because you’re not protected until two weeks after the second dose. And, yes, you still need to wear a mask and social distance.
The shot is free, but providers are allowed to charge a nominal fee for the vaccination service. Anecdotally, local providers don’t seem to be asking for cash but are taking insurance cards. They also ask for a driver’s license, but it’s not clear whether that’s required.
Where to get the vaccine
Almost none of the corporations making headlines about vaccinations actually have vaccines today. A large number of various healthcare-related providers received small amounts of the vaccine during the first big rollout.
Since then, most vaccines locally have gone to the two designated major providers: NET Health and Health East Texas. Christus Health has also just announced plans to become a vaccine hub provider.
Waiting List Signups
Brookshire Grocery Company Waiting List (Brookshire Grocery Co. does not expect any more doses for several weeks.)
There may be a few other locations locally that occasionally have doses, mainly for frontline healthcare workers and special purposes. The full list of Texas vaccine providers is maintained by DSHS.
Eventually as the supply becomes more available, many other pharmacies and primary care providers will likely offer the vaccine. The Tyler Loop will provide updates as appropriate.
When to get the vaccine
Currently, “Phase 1A” and “Phase 1B” individuals are eligible for vaccination if they can find a provider with it in stock.
- Phase 1A: Frontline healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities
- Phase 1B: People over 65 or with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
The definition of “chronic medical condition” is very broad:
Age 65 and older OR
Age 18 and older AND have at least one chronic medical condition that puts you at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to:
- 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)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Meanwhile, the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus is already circulating in the DFW area. The CDC expects it to generate another large spike in cases in March.
If you can get vaccinated, get vaccinated. While it doesn’t guarantee against spreading the virus to friends and family, it keeps you from getting sick. Meanwhile, continue wearing a mask and practice social distancing.
Stephen Fierbaugh was lead IT Project Manager for a large hospital ship being built in China. Now, he’s looking for new places to serve. Are these statistics helpful? Would you like to see similar information for your city or organization? Stephen has his Masters in Intercultural Studies with a focus on ICT4D (technology) and is PMI certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP). Check out his LinkedIn for more examples of his skills and experience.
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