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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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TN Republican introduces legislation to fight opioid shipments into U.S.

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Tennessee Republican Representative Diana Harshbarger is attempting to fight the opioid crisis and epidemic through new legislation. Introduced Friday, Harshbarger told the Daily Caller:

The Daily Caller first obtained a copy of the legislation, which addresses what Harshbarger calls a “loophole.” The legislation amends the Controlled Substances Act to specifically require registrants to investigate reports of suspicious orders of controlled substances and halt them if necessary. Under the version of the act currently in force, drug manufacturers and distributors are only required to report suspicious orders of opioids and other controlled substances to the DEA.

“Breaking the opioid epidemic’s stranglehold on our nation is one of my foremost priorities. In an effort to do so, my colleagues and I have identified a loophole that allows distributors to continue order fulfillment, even under suspicious circumstances.”

“My bill closes that loophole with the requirements and guardrails needed to ensure these addictive and potentially dangerous drugs do not fall into the wrong hands while the DEA investigates. The future of our nation depends on us solving the addiction crisis, and this is a step towards that outcome” Harshbarger continued.

The Daily Caller reports:

According to a congressional report released in September, the opioid crisis cost the U.S. $1.5 trillion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC says 93,331 people died from overdoses in the U.S. in 2020, the highest in 50 years. Opioid-related deaths made up nearly three-quarters of the total.

Pharmaceutical companies have been blamed for contributing to the opioid epidemic. The Department of Justice is currently suing the pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen over allegations the company failed to report suspicious orders of opioids to federal law enforcement.

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