DALLAS — Hundreds of people bundled up in jackets and, of course, face masks and stood in front of the Tower Building just before 6 a.m. on Monday to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at the newly opened mega inoculation site in Fair Park.
The City of Dallas and Dallas County joined together on the community venture in South Dallas to offer at least 2,000 vaccinations a day at the first site of its kind in the city, per officials.
“Today, we’ll start with about 120 folks an hour in the morning and bump up to about 150 to 180,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “In the afternoon, we’ll be well above 200 an hour starting tomorrow. Most of the folks that are going to be here today are going to be over 75-years-old.”
As of now, the only residents eligible to receive the vaccine include those in Phase 1A and Phase IB. Per the Texas Department of State Health Services’ criteria, Phase 1A consists of first responders, long-term care residents, and essential workers. Additionally, Phase 1B incorporates people 65 and older, along with those 16 and older who have at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus. As more doses of the vaccine become available, the pool of those who can get it will expand as directed by the state.
“When you look at that vulnerability index, you’re going to see the most vulnerable folks are the oldest citizens and so they’ll be first,” Jenkins said. “We’re real excited to help them.”
During the press conference, Jenkins stated Parkland Hospital donated some of their vaccine doses to the mega site as it waits on the arrival of more from the state next week. The facility includes an observation area. Once the shot has been administered, the patient will be observed for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on their history with allergic reactions to shots.
“They’ll come in, they’ll check-in, they’ll sit down in the chair [and] they never have to get up from that chair until it’s time for their shot,” he said.
The county will only administer the vaccine to those who register for it. More than 140,000 residents have signed up so far. After signing up, registrants will receive an email detailing the next steps in the process, according to county officials. The facility operates Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., depending on its availability of the vaccine. In a tweet, Jenkins noted that nearly 1,800 people received the shot by day’s end.
“With over 100,000 residents registered and many more in need of vaccination, this partnership with the county is fundamental to return to some sense of normalcy,” said Office of Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz in a press release. “The mega vaccination site is one way for our residents to get vaccinated and begin turning the corner on the pandemic.”
As of Tuesday, the Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 1,813 additional confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 194,380 in the county. To date, 1,777 residents have died as a result of the virus. Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County Health and Human Services director, mentioned the county told the state to “send them as much vaccine as you can give us” to the mass vaccination center as they work to bring the record number of hospitalizations down.
“This is the next phase of our addressing the pandemic,” Huang said of the site. “But, a reminder, we are at record numbers of hospitalizations still as I speak today. We’re having huge numbers that we are really still assessing the impact of from Christmas and we’re very concerned about where we going with this stress on our healthcare system.”
Following concerns from the city council and community members about the need to provide a vaccine distribution center in an underserved area and where residents tend to be most vulnerable to the virus, the city selected Fair Park.
“To the county, we have been working together throughout this pandemic trying to increase the amount of testing we’ve been able to do and making sure that equity stays at the forefront of everything that we do,” said City of Dallas mayor Eric Johnson. “We want to make sure that our most underserved communities are taken care of.”
In an ongoing plea for residents across the county, Johnson encouraged those eligible to get the shot. Johnson stated more mega sites would eventually open across the city with a continued focus on “equity.”
“All I want to say to folks who are out there watching this and who are listening, is that this really is the final frontier in the battle against COVID-19,” he said. “We need anyone, anyone, who is still skeptical about taking this vaccine to know that this vaccine is safe and it’s what we must do – what we must do – to get our lives back to normal.”
For more information on the vaccine, visit dallascityhall.com/covid19 or call 214-670-INFO (4636), and to sign up, visit Dallas County’s website here.