At least 1,100 members of the Texas National Guard will give out vaccines to homebound senior citizens in rural and isolated areas of Texas to get the majority of Texans 65 and older vaccinated against the coronavirus by March, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.
Abbott added that with the vaccine supply ramping up and the potential authorization of a third vaccine this week, the state could widen its eligibility to more groups of Texans sometime next month.
“The good news is there’s going to be a record amount of vaccines available across Texas this week with increasing numbers going forward,” Abbott said. “We’re going to have the capability to … apply vaccines very, very quickly for our seniors as well as additional populations, so that we increasingly, week by week, will be increasing the immunity that Texans have.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services has prioritized state residents who are 65 years or older and anyone with a pre-existing medical condition that puts them at higher risk for contracting a severe form of the virus.
More than 9 million people statewide are currently eligible for the vaccine.
Officials say the next groups of people that could be eligible for the virus could include teachers and other essential workers.
The National Guard’s effort to reach out to senior citizens who cannot or have difficulty leaving their homes, called Save Our Seniors, starts Monday.
It expands upon a mobile vaccination program run by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and modeled after local programs that work with nonprofits to identify homebound seniors who have not yet been vaccinated, the Texas Tribune reported.
Teams of National Guard members will be working with organizations such as Meals on Wheels and nursing groups to identify seniors who do not have access to vaccination centers, clinics, or doctor’s offices.
Abbott said 40 percent of the state’s 65 and over population had received a dose of the vaccine. But officials are aiming to administer shots to at least 50 percent of them by the end of next week and vaccines to every senior citizen who wants one by the end of March.
Texas, which has a population of about 29 million, administered 4.6 million vaccine doses to state residents and has fully inoculated about 1.5 million people.