Texas adjusts vaccine strategy to place more emphasis on 75 or older

The coronavirus variant from the UK was recently found in Austin, it was detected by a private lab.

Thursday, Imelda Garcia, an associate commissioner with DSHS, said efforts are underway to determine if it, or the South African strain, are in other parts of Texas.

"Our DSHS Public Health Lab here in Austin, as well as the City of Houston's public health lab, are actively doing sequencing looking for the new strain," said Garcia.

The UK strain is more contagious but not more deadly than what is already in Texas. In a statement issued by Austin Public Health, the discovery was described as concerning but, does not come as a surprise.


The news didn't stop people from shopping or going to restaurants Thursday. Megan Ewert, who was out getting groceries, said she and her family will just have to clamp down on the protective measures they've already been doing.

"It’s just not what you want to hear, it was probably here a month ago, we just didn't know about it, but you don’t want to hear about it, that’s there is another strain, it’s not surprising but, yuck, just the same you know," Ewert.

Mayor Steve Adler had the same reaction. "Now the fact that we just got our very first case of that variant doesn't mean it just arrived. It's probably been here and already circulating, we just haven't known it, found it," said Adler.

The CDC expects the UK variant to become the dominant strain in the US by next month. The good news is, current vaccines are still considered to be effective against it.

The Austin discovery comes as state health officials are adjusting their vaccination strategy. The plan now is to push ideas that place more of an emphasis on people 75 years and older.

"Some of these could be setting aside a specific number of doses, for our seniors. Serving them at special hours, helping them move more quickly through the line, with a fast track lane. Or taking vaccine directly to them through the EMS providers or Meals on Wheels, like they are doing successfully in Corpus Christi and San Antonio," said Garcia.

Those who are still waiting, state officials said, just have to be patient. Ashley Efta, who is struggling to keep her business open, said she's looking forward to getting off this COVID roller coaster ride.

"Can it stop now, please? It just seems like after this happens what if there is another strand, and I think that at this point everyone has been exposed to it some way, and we just have to realize that this is life and continue to live and to be as careful as possible, but educate ourselves on what’s the best step, and way to handle the situation, but still continue to live," said Efta.

2.75 million vaccines have been provided in Texas so far, according to state officials. Of that number, 620,000 are now considered to be fully vaccinated.