DALLAS — Story updated with additional details about the letter from the Dallas mayor's office and a statement from the mayor's office.
A long line of cars stretched outside the gates of Fair Park in South Dallas on Thursday. It was a busy scene, as hundreds of seniors from across Dallas County arrived for their chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We had not signed up previous to getting here,” said John Trick. He said he and his wife were encouraged by their District 10 City Council member to attend.
Four days into opening the vaccine mega center at Fair Park many residents said the rollout has been smooth.
”I want to get it over with,” said Willie Rolston as he arrived.
Behind the scenes, communication between some elected officials over Dallas County’s decision to relax registration requirements was at the center of some controversy.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and some City Council members announced Wednesday the county was relaxing registration requirements to allow residents 75 and older to show up without an appointment and register on-site to get the vaccine.
It benefitted residents like Sarah Barton’s 98-year-old mom.
“Luckily we heard that you did not need an appointment, because we could not figure out how to get an appointment,” Barton said.
However, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson fired off a letter questioning why the city wasn't consulted on the change and why it was only communicated to a select group of people.
Jenkins said Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax was in the loop, among other city officials. He added all partner agencies determined the move was in the best interest of the public.
A spokesman from the mayor’s office said Broadnax told the mayor that Jenkins did not inform him of the decision ahead of time.
”Efforts are being made to reach out to 75-plus in the most underserved communities and get them in for an appointment,” Jenkins explained.
Data showed, prior to relaxing the registration requirement, a majority of those who signed up for the COVID-19 vaccine were white seniors from northern Dallas County.
”While we want to make sure that the most vulnerable of the population has the opportunity to get this vaccine, we also need to be focused, from a racial equity standpoint of who benefits from that,” said Dallas City Councilman Casey Thomas, chair of the city’s COVID-19 Task Force.
For now, Dallas County is partnering with UT Southwestern and Parkland to continue distributing vaccine. Workers are encouraging residents to continue registering for the vaccine online on the county's website.