Great news for those 50 and over who've been wanting to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Texas' Department of Health and Human Services has once again expanded eligibility for vaccination - this time to people ages 50 to 64. The change takes effect today (Monday, March 15), and these folks fall into what's being classified as Group 1C.

DSHS recently expanded eligibility to school and childcare employees as well following a federal directive aimed at vaccinating as many educators as possible before the end of the month.

Since vaccines began arriving in Texas, those aged 65 or older or at least 16 with qualifying health conditions, front-line healthcare workers, and staff and residents of long-term care facilities have been eligible.

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According to a news release we received from DSHS, over 93% of lives lost to COVID-19 in Texas have been those of people 50 and over, with those in the age range of 50 to 64 accounting for 20% of those fatalities. Health officials hope to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths with this expansion.

Texas is expected to receive over 800,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses this week, according to DSHS. 656,810 will go to around 450 providers in 178 counties, while around 200,000 will go to pharmacies and federally-qualified health centers.

Hopefully this will bump up the number of vaccines administered to vulnerable Texans, which recently decreased according to the Texas Tribune's Coronavirus Tracker page. The good news, their numbers suggest, is that hospitalizations, average new cases, and average deaths have also decreased.

Bell County's COVID-19 Dashboard reports a decrease in reported cases since a spike in early 2021. Of the county's almost 21,000 reported cases, 401 have resulted in death, while 20,164 patients have recovered. As of March 12, the Bell County Public Health District reported 381 active cases.

There's no telling what sort of numbers we'll see now that Texas' statewide mask mandate has been lifted, but hopefully more Texans will receive the vaccine soon. In the mean time, many businesses both big and small are still asking Texans to wear a face covering to protect employees and each other.

In his address announcing the lifting of the mask mandate, Governor Greg Abbott talked about personal responsibility and looking out for each other. Whether you agree or disagree with his lifting the mandate, I hope you'll remain thoughtful and considerate of your friends and neighbors as we work to put this pandemic behind us.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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