After winter storms and power outages led to Denton County Public Health canceling a week’s worth of COVID-19 vaccine clinics, the department will prioritize second doses over first doses for the upcoming week’s appointments, according to director Matt Richardson.
Richardson addressed vaccine distribution at Friday’s Denton County Commissioners Court meeting. Since forming its partnership with Texas Motor Speedway, the county has typically held three clinics per week. Over the past two weeks, however, DCPH has held a total of just two, as four have been canceled due to inclement weather and the recent power crisis.
The cancelations have led to appointments being pushed back and, as a result, Richardson said the department will be prioritizing second doses over first doses at the upcoming week’s clinics. Appointments for those clinics will be sent out to residents over the weekend or early in the week.
“It may be that we will prioritize those second doses and delay the first doses on the waitlist,” Richardson said. “Many people are expecting that second dose this week, so we will be planning to address those and construct our clinics to maximize those appointments.”
Friday afternoon, DCPH announced via social media that only recipients due for their second doses will be vaccinated at the upcoming week’s clinics. First doses will resume the following week, which begins March 1, and will start with spot #83,593 on the department’s online registration waitlist.
Health officials have stated since the vaccine rollout began that the second dose of the Modera vaccine should be given about four weeks after the first, with three weeks recommended for the second Pfizer shot. Richardson clarified, however, that the second shot does not have to be given exactly at those intervals to boost resistance to the virus.
“The second dose does not have to be precise,” Richardson said. “What we know is that the second dose can be administered weeks after, even months after … what we’re trying to do is boost that immunity to an incredibly high level, in the mid-90 percentile.”
Richardson added that the department’s future stock is up in the air. DCPH does not currently have enough vaccines on-hand to cover all of the recipients due for their second doses, and Texas has not yet released its vaccine allocation list for the upcoming week.
No action was taken Friday on the county’s winter storm disaster declaration, issued by commissioners at an emergency meeting Tuesday. County Judge Andy Eads said the primary benefit of the declaration is that it allows the county more purchasing flexibility, and that it will likely run through its expiration date next Tuesday.
By Friday afternoon, ERCOT had already reported the state’s electric grid was operating under normal conditions. The county is still working on some lingering power and water issues, but Eads said Thursday that county buildings were in good shape.
“For the most part, the county buildings have fared pretty well,” Eads said. “We have been focusing a lot of our efforts on working with our utilities to get our power back on to specific locations that needed to be served.”
The county was also authorized for FEMA assistance after the White House issued an emergency declaration for the state. Deputy county administrator Jody Gonzalez said Texas counties were issued category B assistance, meaning they can be reimbursed for emergency protective measures taken during the storm. In this case, the reimbursement would cover expenses for road maintenance, the upkeep of shelters and repair efforts, among other responses to the storm.
Gonzalez did not have an estimate Thursday on how much Denton County would seek in reimbursement, adding that the assistance requires detailed applications and would likely arrive in four to six months.
“It takes a lot of time to put the project worksheets together,” Gonzalez said. “We’re still knee-deep in response mode. Expenses are being tracked by multiple departments.”