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North Texas prepares for big jump in vaccine doses as hospitalizations hit record levels

Dallas and Tarrant counties will receive around 50k doses combined this week, but it'll be months before the average person will have access

FORT WORTH, Texas — Shipments of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine began heading across the country Sunday, joining Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine as another weapon to stop the deadly pandemic.

Dallas County Health Director Dr. Phil Huang just found out Thursday the county will get roughly 25,000 total doses this week between the two companies and the health department will also get a small allotment. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services allocation amounts, Tarrant County expects just under 27,000.

“This is really promising,” Huang said. “This is a huge scientific breakthrough.”

The line to be vaccinated, though, is long and still moving slowly.

“These numbers are going take weeks to play out, even to cover these top priority health care providers,” Huang said.

Some have raised concerns over possible side effects like headaches and fatigue.

“You're probably going to feel a little crappy and have maybe a little bit of a low-grade fever for the first two days,” Dr. Crystal Howell, an infectious disease pharmacist at UNTHSC, said. “It seemed to be limited to those first 48 hours.”

Howell says Tylenol helped alleviate symptoms for those who had them. She expects MRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, to be the future since the vaccine isn’t a live virus but instead simply send messages to cells to make antibodies against the virus.

About 50% of Americans got the flu vaccine last year according to the Center fo Disease Control, but Howell says more than 65% need to get the COVID-19 vaccine before it makes a difference. That’s about 18 million Texans. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows just over 26,000 vaccinations as of Sunday, but those numbers are expected to pick up rapidly.

“We need everyone to kind of step up in this time to help out,” Howell said.

For most, that decision months away, and right now, the virus is spreading more than ever.

“Absolutely the message cannot be - I mean, this is not solved,” Huang said of the vaccine. “This is promising. It shows us a path, but no one can relax at this point.”

Huang’s other focus besides vaccine distribution is record-high hospitalizations in the area. North Texas COVID-19 hospitalizations hit 3,020 Sunday, which, headed into Christmas, is 30% higher than a month ago before Thanksgiving.

“That potential then, for even getting worse, is extremely concerning,” Huang said.

The vaccine being available to the general public is still months away. The next several weeks could decide if hospitals become overrun and deaths continue to increase.