Finger-pointing over COVID-19 vaccine eligibility at Fair Park

There was frustration at Fair Park on Thursday after mixed messages about who can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, more than 220,000 people have already signed up to get on Dallas County’s vaccine waitlist and the number is only growing from there.

Dallas County got just 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, and it’s expecting another 12,000 next week to serve a growing list of hundreds of thousands of people.

The county is also partnering with Parkland and UT Southwestern to help vaccinate as many as possible.

"We gave Parkland 16,000 names off our list a couple days ago, and we’re sharing it also with UT Southwestern and other providers in the community," said Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang. "We’re happy to share that list and help us all move down and get as many people on our list covered."

Since Wednesday, the county has vaccinated more than 3,000 people and have about 1,0000 appointments scheduled for Friday. It’s unclear if the Fair Park site will have enough vaccine to open Saturday as planned.

Dallas County made a last-minute decision to let people who are 75 and older get the vaccine without an appointment. It's caused some friction between the city of Dallas and the county.

"I had residents at 12:15 say that we’re posting on Facebook that they were told it was open to everybody.  Walk-ins were available," said Councilperson Jennifer Staubach Gates.

Frustrated Dallas City Council members grilled Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Philip Huang on Thursday about how the information got out.

The county’s message was that the mega-site was by appointment only, at least initially focusing on those 75 and older or those with certain conditions.

But council members say they’ve been inundated with calls and seeing social media posts by people saying they were told anyone over 75 could show up Wednesday without an appointment.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson sent a letter to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins accusing the judge of letting people in South Dallas jump the line, saying in part "you had communicated this policy change to a select group of residents."

"That was due to a lot of fraudulent appointments that were made with the system because some people released the appointment links," Huang said.

Huang said the issue started because people signing up for the vaccine began sharing the appointment link with those who were not in their target group and that’s who was showing up.

Huang said they sent those people home, but that left them with vaccine that needed to be used so they reached out to community leaders in underserved areas letting them know there was an opportunity to get the vaccine.

Jenkins said they’d been seeing more white people from affluent zip codes show up rather than minorities from communities hit the hardest by COVID.

In his own letter to the mayor, Jenkins fired back and accused the mayor and other council members of undermining the effort by broadcasting that vaccine was available to anyone over 75 without an appointment.

What came next were long lines. The line outside Fair Park Thursday stretching several blocks forced police to shut the site down about an hour early.

"Just the trust that was lost with the public because people were posting. That’s how they found out about it, and that’s how they got there," Gates said. "We were told we could share it. There would be walk-ins. Now, there’s a two-hour wait and a two-mile line. There’s a lot of confusion and frustration."

Jenkins says they will also be vaccinating people 75 and older without appointments on Friday and will likely return to requiring appointments on Saturday.


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