On Tuesday, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to prioritize vaccines at one of its distribution centers for individuals in primarily Black and Latinx neighborhoods—a decision made in response to high rates of the virus in communities of color both across the United States and specifically in Dallas. The Texas Tribune reports that the plan was to focus on people who meet the state’s criteria for vaccination, and who live in one of 11 zip codes where the virus is hitting residents particularly hard. All of these zip codes are at least partially located south of Interstate 30, a highway that splits the county along racial and socioeconomic lines.
But Texas health officials reportedly “pushed back” on the proposed plan, threatening to reduce the number of vaccines allocated to Dallas County if they intended to prioritize individuals in Black and Latino neighborhoods. In a letter to Dallas health officials, an associate commissioner with the Department of State Health Services wrote:
“While we ask hub providers to ensure vaccine reaches the hardest hit areas and populations, solely vaccinating people who live in those areas is not in line with the agreement to be a hub provider. If Dallas County is unable to meet these expectations, we will be forced to reduce the weekly vaccine allocation to Dallas County Health and Human Services and no longer consider it a hub provider.”
Like in other major cities in Texas, Dallas’ vaccine distribution sites are more commonly located in white neighborhoods. According to early data, in Dallas County, most of the vaccines have been given to residents of whiter and wealthier neighborhoods. This plan was proposed as an attempt to counteract that trend in order to make sure that vaccines are actually reaching the most vulnerable communities.
But after the discouraging response from state health officials, the commissioners voted to rescind the plan during an emergency meeting on Wednesday. The Dallas County Commissioners Court plans to meet again this week to come up with a new vaccination plan that is “transparent and accountable.”
A governmental body prioritizing getting vaccines to Black and Latinx people during a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx people?? I’ll believe it when I see it.