Texas is playing a vital role in the effort to get more COVID-19 vaccines to the public, from production in College Station to research in Plano.
"We're the number one site in the nation at the moment. We've recruited and vaccinated more participants than all of my colleagues at this point in time," said Dr. Jeffery Adelglass, a research physician involved in Phase 3 trials for the COVID-19 vaccine from Maryland-based Novavax.
The medical director at Research Your Health says the trial is "going very well." Two out of three participants coming to his get the actual vaccine. The other gets only an ineffective placebo to compare the results.
Thirty thousand people in 115 sites in the U.S. and Mexico are being recruited to test the vaccine's effectiveness.
"The people who are doing the trial are heroes fighting a war against an unseen enemy," Adelglass said.
While the research goes on in Plano, a biotech production facility at Texas A&M also has a huge role in the war against COVID-19.
FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and the Texas A&M University System Center for Innovation in Advanced Development & Manufacturing (CIADM) announced that production has begun in Texas on two different COVID-19 vaccine candidates with support from the U.S. government to meet Operation Warp Speed goals, according to a news release.
The university and its subcontractor are producing the first part in the two-part vaccine candidate from Novavax and another candidate from French pharmaceutical maker Sonafi.
A&M is not producing the actual COVID vaccine in vials as we might think. It is producing a protein that will be mixed with an adjuvant at another site that will become the vaccine.
"It's just as complicated to develop the protein that creates the initial immune response as it is to actually create an adjuvant that works well," said Dr. W. Jay Treat, the chief manufacturing officer at Texas A&M CIADM.
Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?
As the state begins to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines for those in Phase 1A and 1B, county health departments have begun waitlists for those wish to be inoculated.
You can now register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:
You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.
"If you go into a fast-food restaurant, and you get a cold drink out of the machine. The Coke is in a syrup form. That comes from Coke, but the carbonated water could come from anybody. So, we're making the syrup-like Coke, for example, which is our protein. And consider the carbonated water as the adjuvant being made and they're mixed together onsite that now fill up your cup," Treat said as he explained the process.
Texas A&M anticipates the work being done its facilities will add up to approximately 20 to 40 million doses per month based on current information, but when it comes to the actual number, "can't tell you that," said Treat, citing confidentiality agreements in the $265 million contract with the federal government.
While both the Novavax and Sonafi vaccines are weeks or months from seeking approval for emergency use, the work happening at Texas A&M is mission-critical to the global fight against the deadly virus.
"The taxpayers invested in this facility. And as a taxpayer myself, it's nice to know the money is going to products that will actually help people," said Treat.
If for some reason Novavax and Sonafi do not get approval from the FDA, Treat says the facility can be adapted to produce other vaccines.
Treat also adds the work at A&M shows "you could build facilities in Texas. You don't have to use the east or west coast which is where most of these drugs are manufactured," he said. "It allows us to start diversifying our economy into areas that people didn't really think of Texas as the place to do that kind of business in the past."
Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows where COVID-19 vaccines have been sent around the state. Click on a marker to find out information about each location. Use the "plus" and "minus" signs below to zoom in and out of the map.
From the Texas DSHS: Availability of COVID-19 vaccines lilsted on this map are based on shipping information and reporting to the DSHS directly by facilities. Please contact providers in advance to confirm vaccination location and hours, that they have vaccine on hand and that you are eligible for vaccination at that site. Not all providers are vaccinating the public or people in all priority groups. Vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance status.