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Relaxed rules attracting ineligible visitors to Southeast Texas vaccination sites

“We're hearing folks from larger cities, maybe traveled to more rural or urban areas around their city if they're unable to get vaccinated in their larger city.”

BEAUMONT, Texas — Southeast Texas’ relaxed restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines are the talk of Texas. Vaccination sites in Lumberton and Port Arthur are allowing anyone to register and get an appointment for the shot of hope.

Texans don't have to prove they're eligible for the vaccine, and some are jumping to the front of the line. That's because local mass vaccination hubs in Port Arthur, Lumberton And Orange, are allowing anyone to register, and get an appointment.

“I feel like it was very important to me to take advantage of this opportunity to come and get the vaccine today,” Rob Zipp said in a VLOG.

Even if that means driving more than 100 miles all the way from north Houston to Port Arthur.  It's a trend that president of the immunization partnership Allison Winnike is keeping a close eye on.

“We're hearing folks from larger cities maybe traveled to more rural or urban areas around their city if they're unable to get vaccinated in their larger city,” Winnike said.

Southeast Texas is a hotspot for this kind of behavior. Zipp had no luck finding a vaccine in Houston, so he tried nearby cities. He eventually got an appointment at the CVS in Port Arthur for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

RELATED: Interactive state map shows COVID-19 vaccine availability across Southeast Texas

“I think the ethical thing to do is to get the vaccine as soon as you can. The sooner we all get the vaccine, the sooner we can get back to living our lives. And I did wait my turn. I just had to travel to get it,” Zipp said.

Under the state's guidance, Zipp is eligible. He falls under the Phase 1B vaccination group, but, not everyone who travels to our region meets the state's standards. 

Here's Zipp's vlog on his vaccine trip to Port Arthur...

RELATED: Here's how you can sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine in Southeast Texas

Health and Human Services reporter Karen Brooks Harper with the Texas Tribune said some young, healthy people are jumping the line. They are seeking out vaccine distributors that have lifted the state's criteria. 

“Some of them are the hustle mentality. Some of them have the me-first mentality, but a whole lot of them that are just scared to death,” Harper said.

Why is this a problem? Harper said if someone who is not eligible gets the vaccine, they could be taking away a vaccine from an eligible Texan. 

But not all qualifying medical conditions are visible. 

“You can't look at someone and tell that they have a heart condition or diabetes or sickle cell disease,” Harper said.

So, just because eligibility requirements have been waived in some regions, Winnike said you should be asking yourself: 'Can I wait my turn?' 

“Ethically, we really need to make sure that the folks that are have been identified as most at risk that they get theirs first and people who are not categorized as high risk, yet should wait their turn in line,” Winnike said.

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