Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott said Tuesday that a "significant portion" of COVID-19 vaccines might still be sitting on hospital shelves rather than being administered to vulnerable Texans, adding that the decision to get inoculated is "always voluntary."
It comes after the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said there "may be unnecessary delays" in giving all shots and in reporting administered doses to the state's immunization registry.
"We also know that every day a vaccine sits on the shelf is another day that prolongs the pandemic that is hindering our state's economy and way of life," Hellerstedt said in the letter, in which he also noted that more vaccines would soon be delivered to replenish stockpiles.
"Every shot administered matters," he said, adding that health providers do not need to ensure that all members of the 1A priority group have been served before beginning to provide the vaccine to the 1B priority group.
The ACIP panel listed categories of essential workers under “Phase 1B,” including first responders, teachers, and workers in food and agriculture, manufacturing, grocery stores, public transit, and at the U.S. Postal Service. According to the panel’s recommendations, next would be “Phase 1C” of vaccine allocation, which would see prioritization of adults aged 65 to 75, those aged 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions, as well as “other essential workers.”
Hellerstedt also said in the letter that once "all readily available and willing 1A and 1B persons have been served, we urge you to pivot again and provide vaccine to any additional available and willing persons, regardless of their priority designation."
"We want every dose administered and we assure you there is more on the way," he wrote.
President Donald Trump has also urged haste in administering the vaccine.