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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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College to begin offering abortion pill on campus

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Barnard College, a partner campus of Columbia University, will be rolling out a plan in May that involves supplying students with abortion pills, the Columbia Spectator reported. The plan to provide the abortion service in the form of mifepristone abortion pills to students was initially announced in the fall of 2022 after the overturning of Roe. V Wade, according to the Spectator. However, the rollout’s delay has been partially attributed to an August 2023 grant the college received, which allowed Barnard to join a large network of primary care providers that will help steer the college through the procedures.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reports Barnard’s Primary Care Health Service will host student focus groups in upcoming weeks to find out student perspectives about the service and to identify new ways to support students considering abortion. “We wanted to make sure that we’re addressing this from every angle that will be supportive of students,” Sarah Ann Anderson-Burnett, director of Medical Services and Quality Improvement of Barnard, told the Spectator. Anderson-Burnett also said it has expanded the availability of its abortion providers to after-hours and year-round.

Barnard has six medical professionals, including two physicians and four nurse practitioners, who are capable of performing the procedure, Mariana Catallozzi, vice president for Health and Wellness and chief health officer of Barnard, told the Spectator. The school also launched a partnership with AccessNurse, a medical call center that will assist with patient concerns related to abortions.

“The training doesn’t end with the clinicians,” Anderson-Burnett told the Spectator. “Clinicians are trained on the actual provision, but there’s also an overall training that will be provided to key partners and stakeholders across the campus because we want every step, every touchpoint, to be supportive and to be trauma-informed and to be patient-valued and centered but also respect confidentiality and privacy.”

The University of Massachusetts Amherst spent more than $650,000 to stock abortion pills in March 2023 at the request of Democratic Maryland Gov. Maura Healey. Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill in May 2023 forcing college in the state to stock abortion pills on campus.

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