HOUSTON (CN) — As Galveston County gears up for throngs of beachgoing spring breakers, it's already a destination for Covid-weary Texans signing up on its take-all-comers vaccine wait list.
"Look what I got today! Galveston County. Nice that they’re finally more available," a 52-year-old woman tweeted Tuesday with a photo of her holding up a card showing she had received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
"I'm now scheduled to get the vaccine this week!!" Katie Livingood, an employee of NASA's Johnson Space Center wrote Wednesday in a tweet directing other Galveston County residents to sign up for its wait list, which is managed by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
But Galveston County, like several other Texas counties, is not limiting the shots to residents.
It is vaccinating any adults who sign up, though it is prioritizing the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and school employees and day care workers, in adherence to state guidelines.
More than 165,000 people have joined the vaccine-wait list, with more than 20,000 of those doing so on or after March 5 when the county expanded eligibility to all adults, the Galveston County Daily News reported.
UTMB recently received an unexpected shipment of 3,100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and it will start administering the shots Thursday, county health officials said.
The wait list lets people choose which they prefer, Pfizer and Moderna's two-dose vaccines or Johnson & Johnson's single shot.
“We had no idea how popular the J&J vaccines would be,” Dr. Philip Keiser, public health authority for Galveston County, told the Daily News.
The vaccination expansion comes as Galveston businesses prepare for hordes of spring breakers to descend on the island city this weekend.
Its palm-tree-lined boulevards are reminiscent of Southern California. And though its beaches cannot compare to California's, they are a welcome respite for Texans without the means for expensive plane trips or unwilling to splurge on out-of-state vacations before they have been vaccinated.
Michael Woody of the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau said 30 million people live within 300 miles of the county-seat city, which is 50 miles southeast of Houston.
“There's a lot of opportunity for people who maybe would have traveled further historically, and maybe they're not quite ready to do that. [Galveston] is an amazing opportunity for them to still have an incredible beach experience," he told the Houston Chronicle.
Despite Governor Greg Abbott's repeal of an order for Texans to wear masks in public, most Galveston hotels say they will keep making their staff wear them and also ask guests to, the Chronicle reported, citing a survey by the convention and visitors bureau.
More than 65,00 Galveston County residents have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, and another 40,380 are fully vaccinated. So around 25% of the county's 269,280 residents 16 and older – younger people aren't eligible – have vaccine in their bodies, according to the latest data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Statewide, more than 4.6 million Texans have received at least one dose, and over 2.5 million are fully vaccinated.
Middle-aged Texans who don't live near a county in which all adults are eligible got some good news Wednesday as the state announced residents age 50 and older are free to get the shots starting March 15.
“Expanding to ages 50 to 64 will continue the state’s priorities of protecting those at the greatest risk of severe outcomes and preserving the state’s health care system,” said Imelda Garcia of the Department of State Health Services.Follow @@cam_langford
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