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Dallas cancels plan to prioritize vaccinating communities of color after state threatens to cut dose allocation

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Dallas County officials Wednesday axed a plan to prioritize vaccinating individuals residing in the county’s most vulnerable ZIP codes, predominately in communities of color, after the state threatened to cut the county’s dose allocation, The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a split Dallas County Commissioners Court had voted to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines at its Fair Park distribution center for people in predominately Black and Latino areas, a reflection of heightened vulnerability to the novel coronavirus in 11 Dallas County ZIP codes, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Throughout the whole United States, communities of color have been impacted the most by the coronavirus, and public health officials are trying to figure out how to ensure equity in vaccine distribution. According to The Tribune, in Dallas and other major Texas cities, distribution sites are more commonly stationed in white neighborhoods, and early data illustrated that Dallas County had distributed most of its shots to residents of whiter, more affluent areas.

Dallas officials tried to prioritize any residents who meet Texas’ qualifications to receive doses and reside in one of the 11 ZIP codes, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday. These 11 ZIP codes, according to The Tribune, are all completely or partially south of Interstate 30, a dividing line that splits the county along racial and socioeconomic lines.

However, in response to this proposal, state health officials warned that it was “not acceptable to [the Department of State Health Services.],” The Tribune reported.

In a letter obtained by The Tribune from Imelda Garcia, an associate commissioner with DSHS, to Dallas health officials, she said that the department will be forced to reduce the county’s vaccine allocation if it does not reverse course.

“While we ask hub providers to ensure vaccine reaches the hardest hit areas and populations, solely vaccinating people who live in those areas is not in line with the agreement to be a hub provider,” Garcia wrote. “If Dallas County is unable to meet these expectations, we will be forced to reduce the weekly vaccine allocation to Dallas County Health and Human Services and no longer consider it a hub provider.”

Moreover, Garcia requested an update on the vaccination plan from the county by Thursday morning, The Tribune reported. It should be noted that her letter came after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins wrote to state officials asking if the county’s plan was allowed.

10% of the vaccines distributed in the county is how much the county government is responsible for, according to The Tribune. Most of the doses, however, are actually distributed by hospitals and other health-related institutions.

Wednesday evening, Jenkins successfully convinced commissioners to axe the plan during an emergency meeting. They could broach the issue again, he mentioned, but in the meantime they should ditch the prioritization plan to make sure the county receives its next shipment from the state, The Tribune reported.

Want more details about this story? Then read the full original Texas Tribune report here.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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American and Southwest stand by vaccine mandate, despite Abbott’s ban

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American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are still planning to comply with President Biden’s executive order regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. The order requires all their employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8t. As a result, they will be ignoring Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on vaccine mandates.

Abbott announced his own executive order, effectively banning mandates even from private employers, on Tuesday. “In another instance of federal overreach, the Biden Administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’ continued recovery from the COVID-19 disaster,” Abbott said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced.”

Yet both airlines are requiring their employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 24. This comes despite Southwest’s impromptu cancellation of over 2,000 flights over the weekend. At the time, the airline blamed the cancellations on air traffic control and weather conditions. However, SaraACarter.com was unable to verify that any other airline had to cancel near as many flights for the same reasons. This has left many to speculate that Southwest actually cancelled flights due to their employees walking out as a direct result of the mandate.

Reporter Jack Posobiec tweeted out a flyer circulating among the anti-vaxx Southwest employees. Currently, they are planning a protest outside of Southwest headquarters next Monday. The protest will be called “Freedom Not Force.”

Southwest told Reuters it “would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor.” In addition, American similarly said Abbott’s order does not change anything.

You can follow Jenny Goldsberry on Twitter @jennyjournalism.

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