Dallas County is set to launch its first “mega” public COVID-19 vaccination site next week at Fair Park, where thousands of people a day can be inoculated against the virus that is fueling the deadly pandemic, officials said Thursday.
If the county gets the doses from the state in time, the aim is to vaccinate people who don’t have regular access to a doctor starting Monday. Shots will be administered at the Tower Building and an adjacent facility.
Parkland Health & Hospital System also is expected to provide vaccinations next week at its campus in the city’s medical district, as well as at two public coronavirus testing sites: Ellis Davis Field House and Dallas College’s Eastfield Campus.
At all four sites, vaccinations will be by appointment only.
People can sign up online to get the vaccine at all of the sites. Younger family members and those with internet access can assist those who need help registering, officials said. More than 50,000 people registered in the first 48 hours after Dallas County launched the site Saturday.
County Judge Clay Jenkins said Fair Park was ultimately selected for the county’s first “mega” vaccination site because of its location and ample indoor space that would allow people to be monitored at a safe distance after receiving their shot. The city of Dallas is partnering with the county on the effort.
The county push to begin vaccinating thousands of people comes as frustrations have mounted over a slower-than-expected and confusing vaccine rollout. The state said Thursday that it was shifting to larger providers over smaller pharmacies to provide the public with “identifiable sites where vaccination is occurring and a simpler way to sign up for an appointment.”
While the vaccines will eventually be available to anyone in the county, a southern Dallas site was chosen, in part, to increase access for residents who might have a hard time getting the shots elsewhere.
Southern Dallas is home to many of the county’s most vulnerable communities. Residents who live south of Interstate 30 are more likely to be Black and Latino, work jobs that can’t be done from home and live with multiple generations under one roof, a combination that makes them susceptible to the most severe COVID cases.
Many neighborhoods in southern Dallas lack major grocery and pharmacy chains, which later this year will play an outsized role in distributing the vaccine to most healthy people. Many southern Dallas County residents face a long list of other barriers to vaccination, such as a shortage of technology to register for the shots and a lack transportation to get to inoculation sites. There is also a deep historical distrust between some Black people and health care providers.
This will not be the first time Fair Park has been used during the pandemic. It has also been the location for several massive food giveaways.
The sprawling fairground area was selected after county officials reviewed multiple locations in southern Dallas, including the University of North Texas Dallas campus and Forester Athletic Complex.
The federal government in December approved vaccines for emergency use. According to Texas’ health department, the Lone Star State has sent about 1.3 million doses to providers.
Given the limited vaccine supply, the federal and state governments have created a tiered system to inoculate different populations, prioritizing health care workers and elderly residents of long-term care facilities.
Texans older than 65 and people who have medical issues such as heart conditions, cancer and diabetes are also eligible to receive the vaccine under state guidelines.
Most healthy younger Texans should expect to be eligible for the vaccine later in the year.
Jenkins said earlier this week that he expected the state to provide the county with 2,000 shots a day. He hopes to dramatically increase the number of vaccinations — and sites — as the winter goes on.
“We’re going to get more and more vaccines,” he said. “We’re going to need more and more locations.”