Ron Votral will receive a vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a drive-through vaccination site in Robstown, Texas on February 9, 2021.

Go Nakamura | Reuters

Texas residents 50 and older can get Covid-19 vaccines starting March 15. This is the most populous US state, which extends the eligibility to the previous age group, the Department of Health announced on Wednesday.

So far, Texas has given frontline health workers, people with underlying health conditions, and those 65 and over the opportunity to get a shot. The state announced last week that it would immediately add school and child carers to its list of vaccination entitlements.

By extending the eligibility to people over 50, the state wants to protect those most at risk of serious illnesses from the virus, the ministry said in a statement. The move will put 5 million more Texans on the state’s priority list, even though more than 1 million of them have already been vaccinated.

“The extension to ages 50-64 will continue the state’s priorities to protect those at greatest risk of serious consequences and to preserve the state’s health care system.” Imelda Garcia, DSHS Deputy Commissioner on Laboratory and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

More than half of the state’s seniors have received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly a third are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of Health.

Wednesday also marked the end of the Lone Star State’s mask mandate, and companies are now 100% allowed to reopen, Governor Greg Abbott announced last week, pointing to the increase in vaccine eligibility, the decrease in new cases and the state’s adequate hospital capacity Argumentation.

Alaska became the first state on Tuesday to allow residents 16 and older to be vaccinated.