Texas expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility on Monday

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas health officials are expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility next week to unvaccinated Texans who are 50 years and older.

Starting Monday, March 15, people over the age of 50 will be eligible for a vaccine under the state's 1C Phase.

The Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel has taken a different approach to designating the vaccine, going by age and not occupation.

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Texas announced that people under group 1C will be next to get their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the video above, members of a panel from across the state explain why they selected that group and not essential workers.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than 93% of deaths in the state directly caused by the coronavirus are people 50 and older. Additionally, Texans between 50 and 64 years old account for 20% of all COVID-19 deaths.

As of Wednesday, 44,650 deaths from COVID-19 have been counted in Texas.

"The state of Texas has taken a different strategy than the CDC based on date from Texas," explained Dr. David Lakey, a panel member. "The data from Texas was very clear. The biggest risk factor of being hospitalized or dying from COVID wasn't your occupation but your age and so we've tried to get people 65 and older immunized first. Now 50 and older immunized."

SEE MORE: Track COVID-19 vaccine availability and progress across Houston

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In the video, watch our ABC13 team walk you through using the vaccine tracker within this page.

The new grouping leaves out thousands of grocery store, postal and restaurants workers as well as bus drivers, many of whom have demonstrated in Austin demanding to be included. The panel said it did not want to give preference to any occupation with the data to prove it was at higher risk.

Labor union representatives told ABC13 earlier this week they feel snubbed.

"We feel we're essential workers, tier one responders. We should be included. There's no reason we should not be vaccinated," said Fidel Minor, a long-time bus driver for METRO and vice president of TWU Local 260, which has 2,000 members. "We have a great amount of exposure to the public."

The Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, which makes the recommendations, has 17 members statewide.

The 1C group includes about five million people. Lakey said about one million of people in that group fall under 1A or 1B.

Just the week before, DSHS directed the state's vaccine providers to vaccinate teachers and child care workers immediately after a directive from the federal level.

Nearly 4.7 million Texans have at least one dose of the vaccine.

SEE ALSO: Texas Medical Center leaders talk COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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