Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) says more than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are headed to the Lone Star State this month.
Abbott said the vaccines, the initial allotment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, should begin arriving the week of Dec. 14 and that additional allotments may be made later in the month.
The statement from the governor's office did not say which vaccine, or vaccines, would be sent to Texas.
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Once received, the vaccines will be distributed to qualifying providers across the state who will administer these immunizations based on the Vaccine Distribution Principles developed by the state's Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel and released last month.
Texas will initially allocate COVID-19 vaccines based on the following criteria:
- Protecting health care workers who fill a critical role in caring for and preserving the lives of COVID-19 patients and maintaining the health care infrastructure for all who need it.
- Protecting frontline workers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work providing critical services and preserving the economy.
- Protecting vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19.
- Mitigating health inequities due to factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography.
- Data-driven allocations using the best available scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, allowing for flexibility for local conditions.
- Geographic diversity through a balanced approach that considers access in urban and rural communities and in affected ZIP codes.
- Transparency through sharing allocations with the public and seeking public feedback.
"The State of Texas is already prepared for the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, and will swiftly distribute these vaccines to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized," said Abbott. "As we await the first shipment of these vaccines, we will work with communities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
Imelda Garcia is Chair of the State Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, and Associate Commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services. She said it’s her job to ensure Texans are clear on where they stand.
“We want to make sure that we’re as clear as possible so that the public and everyone knowns where they would be fitting in and when is the time for them to get vaccinated,” said Garcia.
The CDC says healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents should get the first vaccine doses once cleared for use. This guidance is a starting point, but Garcia said states have the option to amend the recommendations. Garcia says DSHS decided to revisit its distribution phases.
“Healthcare workers were our phase 1A population that we had defined earlier on. And we had included staff for long-term healthcare facilities in that component,” she said. “Now with the ACIP making recommendations for us to move residents into that group, we’ll need to revisit that decision and see if we want to amend our definition for the phase 1A as well.”
Garcia says the state could end up make changes now that long-term facility residents are recommended for the first phase. As for phases that follow, it is still an ongoing conversation.
“We are also continuing to work on our definition for the phase 1B eligible population that will come immediately after healthcare workers,” she said.
As for how many vials of the vaccine should we expect in Texas, Garcia said that number changes by the day.
“The supply that the manufacturers are making every day increases,” she said. “So, every now and then they are going to give us a new number. And ultimately our final number won’t come until the final day that they say, ‘here’s your final allocation.’”
She said we could start seeing vaccines we start to see in Texas by mid-December will be administered free of charge.
“The COVID19 vaccine is being provided free of charge regardless of whether you’re insured or uninsured,” said Garcia. “Nobody should be paying anything.”
Increased allotments of the vaccine are expected in January and in the following months, the governor's office said in a statement.