DSHS leaning on local doctors to encourage Texans to get COVID-19 vaccines as demand slows


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Department of State Health Services is ramping up its efforts to encourage Texans to get vaccinated as the state faces a surplus of 280,000 doses this week.

Providers have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to apply for those vaccines, a process that used to fill up quickly, but demand has dwindled in recent weeks.

“What we’re trying to do is get the word out that it is more places than it’s ever been, that it’s in every Walmart in Texas, that, you know, lots of grocery stores, other pharmacy chains, even doctor’s offices now have the vaccine,” Lara Anton with the state health department said Monday.

DSHS launched a commercial campaign with local, trusted doctors in different regions of the state to reach under-vaccinated populations.

“As African Americans, I understand that there have been some issues here as relates to medical care historically. We all are in this pandemic, regardless of race,” Dr. Farris Blount, Jr., with Medical Associates of Houston, is featured in several of the ads.

“I’ve taken the vaccine, my family members have taken a vaccine, they’ve been well, I’ve been well, and I want you to have that same comfort of it being safe as well as being effective,” Dr. Blount said.

The state also launched pop-up sites at 22 Walmart locations across the state, including one in Amarillo on Monday.

“Hopefully that prompts them to go get vaccinated, or to ask those questions of their healthcare provider,” Anton explained.

Dr. Scott Milton with Texas Tech Physicians in Amarillo said he tells his patients the real step toward getting back to normal life is getting vaccinated.

“It’s much safer to get the vaccine than it is risk getting the infection,” Dr. Milton said.

He urges Texans who are still waiting to get the vaccine simply because it is still relatively new to reconsider.

“If they think that they’re trying to be safe, they’re actually probably being more risky by waiting,” Dr. Milton said.

The ultimate goal is herd immunity, the tipping point when enough of a population is immune that the lack of infections provides indirect protection to everyone. DSHS explained we’re not close, but the goal is to get as many shots in arms as possible.

“We know that that’s what’s going to protect our whole population, as as many people getting vaccinated as we can get,” Anton said.

The amount of wasted vaccine remains below 1%. The state will begin requesting less vaccines weekly if demand does not begin to pick up.

For next week, there are currently 500,000 doses up for grabs for providers.

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