AUSTIN, Texas — The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to Texas is expected the week of December 14. The question for many is how long will it be before everyone gets their shots?
Local and state health officials are working on a distribution plan. In the meantime, there's a new tool that can immediately let you know where you might stand.
A few clicks are all it takes to find your place in the vaccine line. Enter your age and the county where you live. Then answer two questions about your job and whether you have COVID-related health risks. The COVID-19 vaccine calculator then lets you know where you might fit in the long line to be immunized.
“If we can support the conversation with data and facts, it's all to the good,” said Kate Miller, a Senior Scientist at Ariadne Labs.
Ariadne Labs worked with the Surgo Foundation to develop a tool called the Vaccine Allocation Planner. It's been widely used by state decision makers and public health departments in formulating their COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans. But now the New York Times has streamlined that data into an easy-to-use calculator for the public.
“I think just letting people know that you're here in line, and you might have to wait because there are all these people in line before you. I think just preparing people for that is a wonderful thing and it's part of how we can think about pulling together as a country and making this work,” said Miller.
The New York Times calculator gives the public a realistic look at how they compare to other people living in their county.
“It's actually a tool for empathy, as well. It's a tool for understanding among groups of people. You aren't just thinking why am I so far back in line. You're realizing that's why I'm so far back in line and that's okay,” said Miller.
Austin Public Health is already working on a ranking system for local vaccine distribution.
“We do have to focus on where the risk points are,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin Public Health. “We're working on a ranking system, similar to what we did with our testing early on, and assigning points based on an individual's risks and need for prioritization for COVID-19.”
Dr. Escott says nursing home residents and certain healthcare workers are the highest priorities. Beyond that, the specifics of the distribution plan are still being finetuned.
“We do intend to make it clear to folks about when it will be their turn,” said Dr. Escott.
Until then, scientists hope their tool will give people a realistic perspective.
“We just need clarity and transparency and we'll all pull together,” said Miller.
Click here to find your place in line.