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Dallas County changes course, will prioritize ZIP codes for vaccine distribution

Dallas County commissioners approve order giving vaccine priority to 11 ZIP codes; county judge warns it will stop shots for everyone else for 'foreseeable future'

DALLAS — Aiming to correct what he says were too many shots going to constituents in his northern Dallas County district, Commissioner J.J. Koch on Tuesday advanced a proposal to give vaccine prioritization to 11 ZIP codes identified in county data as most affected by COVID-19.

Starting Monday, Feb. 1, priority will be given to people living in 75228, 75210, 75211, 75215, 75216, 75217, 75227, 75149, 75150, 75241, and 75243.

Koch says those ZIP codes were selected based off data from the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation vulnerability index.

"We just cut and pasted what the state does (with 1A and 1B populations) then we added on top of that one layer, basically in every tier we prioritized those vulnerable ZIP codes," Koch said.

Koch said the change was needed after the first week of mass vaccination at Fair Park which saw a high number of vaccines in the first three days go to populations outside the PCCI data.

RELATED: Dallas County makes changes after vaccine doses went to people in wealthy neighborhoods

"Those lines on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were extraordinarily white and extraordinarily from District 2," Koch said.

Koch, along with Commissioners John Wiley Price and Theresa Daniel supported the court order with County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia abstaining.

Jenkins said he is concerned the order would cut off vaccine access to vulnerable populations not living in the enumerated ZIP codes.

Jenkins says county data indicates approximately 600,000 people living in the 11 ZIP codes with 27,000 people already signed up on the waitlist.

“The effect of what the commissioners have done is to stop shots for people outside those ZIP codes for the foreseeable future," Jenkins said.

Dallas County Health and Human Services received approximately 9,000 doses from the Texas Department of State Health Services for this week, which accounts for nearly one-quarter of the 36,925 doses received in Dallas County at seven sites.

RELATED: Tarrant County partners with UNTHSC to expand COVID-19 vaccination plans

After the vote, Jenkins said he was unsure if the vote was even legal, given Fair Park's designation as a vaccine hub for surrounding counties that currently do not have one.

"I’m sure we’ll hear from the state of Texas and every suburban city in Dallas County as well as parts of the city not in those 10 ZIP codes," Jenkins said.

DCHHS prioritized those over the age of 75 last week and this week and will add persons aged 65-74 with underlying health conditions next week for appointment only vaccines at Fair Park.

However, with the vote Tuesday, Jenkins says appointments for the following week will be prioritized for anyone in the 1B category in the targeted ZIP codes.

He says that will mean someone in their 30s with an underlying condition in the priority ZIP code will move ahead of someone in their 80s not in a targeted ZIP code.

National, state and local data reflect COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are highest among those age 75 and up.

RELATED: COVID-19 updates: Dallas County hospitalizations up 53% compared to one month ago

"Getting it to the people who are most likely to end up in ICU should be our goal right now," Jenkins said.

Koch added the new policy will give greater responsibility to county commissioners for health and policy outcomes related to vaccine rollout and not rely solely on Jenkins' recommendations.

"It's time that we start making these decisions deliberatively and decisions that represent the best interest of the entirety of the county, not just one individual’s thought of what that is," Koch said.