‘It’s a blessing’: Dallas opens ‘mega’ COVID vaccination site to eager North Texans ready to see their – The Dallas Morning News

A World War II-era civil servant, a retired commercial airline pilot and a hotel housekeeping manager were among the first to receive a vaccine on Monday as Dallas County debuted its new “mega” site for COVID-19 shots.

Seeking a reprieve from the greatest public health crisis in a generation, these North Texans and hundreds more like them — most in their twilight years — awoke before dawn. They lined up in the cold and wondered as they waited what it might be like to once again hug relatives, return to church and travel.

Davis Mosmeyer, 69, was one of the first in line. He wanted to be inoculated so he can hold his fourth grandchild, who is expected to arrive in March.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I just want to be around when my daughter’s second baby comes.”

Officials here say they aim to vaccinate up to 2,000 people a day, depending on supply, at the Fair Park site, a partnership between the city and county of Dallas. Despite a logjam after the site opened at 8 a.m., about 1,100 people had been given a shot by mid-afternoon Monday, a county spokeswoman said.

The site opened as the state abruptly shifted its focus from smaller distribution sites to “hubs” where thousands a day can get vaccinated. The goal, officials said, is to concentrate vaccines in a single place so it is easier for people to figure out how and where to get inoculated.

The first few weeks of the state’s historic vaccination campaign were met with confusion and frustration, as officials pressed providers to move down the priority list earlier than expected, touching off a surge in demand. Residents complained they were forced to hunt down shots from pharmacies, clinics and hospitals that often had none.

Dallas County’s site is open to anyone in North Texas. But people must sign up online to get the vaccine, which is still in limited supply. Appointments will be scheduled Monday through Saturday. So far, more than 140,000 people have registered with the county’s health department — a sum that could take weeks to inoculate if supplies remain scarce.

Other hubs in North Texas include Parkland Health & Hospital System and UTSouthwestern. However, these health care systems are only vaccinating their current patients. The Tarrant County health department and Texas Health Resources are also designated as hubs.

In Texas, only front-line health care workers, people over 65 or those with major health issues are currently eligible for the vaccine.

“This really is the final fight in the battle of COVID-19,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, who was on site.

‘Preventative medicine’

The last stand could not come at a more dire time. The state and region continue to post record-breaking numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus. The North Texas hospital region since Thanksgiving has tallied a shrinking number of intensive care beds, a likely result of gatherings during the long holiday season.

Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County’s health director, echoed the mayor’s optimism. But he emphasized that mask wearing and physical distancing were still vital.

Hundreds of people lined up in the cold, bundled in winter coats and wrapped in blankets, outside the Tower Building. Once inside, they were given the vaccine and monitored for allergic reactions. They wore masks and face shields. They used walkers and wheelchairs. Some were driven from the parking lot to the door on golf carts.

Few had any reservations about the vaccines, which were developed in record time. They said the county’s online registration form was easy to use, but follow up communications were confusing at first. Several in line at Fair Park reported signing up with multiple different pharmacies and agencies.

They said the shot — the first of two doses that are needed for the vaccine to be effective against the coronavirus — didn’t hurt.

For some, Monday’s trip to Fair Park was a family affair. But the limited supply is creating families with mixed immunity. Phyllis Smith, 70, signed herself up as well as four other family members. But only her mother and aunt were vaccinated on Monday.

“I’m not happy,” Smith said. Like many others in line, she said, she has registered her family with multiple providers. While the county didn’t approve her entire family, it was the most expedient, she said.

Smith said she will continue to wait.

“I believe (the vaccine) is going to be good for us,” she said, recalling all the vaccines she’s received throughout her lifetime, including a polio shot. “I believe in preventive medicine.”

Smith’s mother, Velma Oldham, 92, was less eager for the shot. Initially, she wanted to skip it.

“I decided to get it because I think it would help someone else if I got it,” she said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) holds the hand of 86 yr-old Al Godfrey of Arlington as he receives his COVID-19 shot at a mass vaccination site inside Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center in Arlington, Texas, Monday, January 11, 2021. Earlier Abbott met with local and state officials for a briefing and then provided an update on COVID-19 vaccine efforts in Texas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Waiting for a shot

Fair Park was selected as the county’s first vaccination site after several Dallas City Council members were worried about the dearth of vaccine distribution points below Interstate 30, where the city’s most vulnerable residents tend to live. Creating equitable access to the vaccine is a top priority for the site, officials said. The county is following both federal and state guidelines and has also created a vulnerability index identifying the neediest cases based on factors such as age, ZIP code and underlying health conditions.

A large portion of Monday’s shots were for people over 75, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. Some of the older residents in line complained about waiting outside in near-freezing temperatures, the lack of wheelchairs and golf carts, and the long walk from their cars to the Tower building, where shots were administered.

Jenkins said he was unhappy with the original set-up, and officials moved a pre-screen checkpoint from the parking lot closer to the door of the Tower building. He went down the line apologizing. Officials made changes quickly to get the line flowing inside.

Just as the emphasis on Monday was on the county’s oldest residents, Alejandra Vila, 56, offered a reminder of how the pandemic has wrecked the economy and upended young people’s lives.

Vila, a hotel housekeeping manager, said the limit on travel has forced her hotel to reduce her staff by two-thirds. And while she misses nights out salsa dancing with her husband, she is mostly concerned about her teenage daughter, who has been homeschooled. Two days ago, Vila said, her daughter asked, through tears, “When is this going to be over?”

“We deal with it the best we can,” Vila said sitting in one of the hundreds of white folding chairs that were spaced 6 feet apart to maintain physical distancing. “But I think it’s harder for teenagers because they don’t get to see their friends or do anything.”

And although it may be easy for some to imagine life after vaccination, Vila said she won’t resume any normal activities, even after her second dose.

“We have to be conscientious about everyone else,” she said. “We still have to follow the guidelines.

“We may have the vaccine, but what about everybody else?”

Doctors look at a lung CT image at a hospital in Xiaogan,China.

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‘It’s a blessing’: Dallas opens ‘mega’ COVID vaccination site to eager North Texans ready to see their – The Dallas Morning News

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