covid-19 vaccine

‘The Time to Vaccinate Willing Individuals Is Now': Texas Health Officials Stress Urgency

Texas DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt says there may be “unnecessary delays” in administering all allocated vaccines

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Hospitals and other facilities that have received COVID-19 vaccines are reminded to administer their entire allotment with “all deliberate speed," according to a letter from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The letter from Texas DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt noted there may be “unnecessary delays” in administering all allocated vaccines and reporting those administered doses to the state’s immunization registry, ImmTrac2.

“The purpose of this letter is to reiterate that we direct all entities that have been allotted vaccine to administer their entire allotment with all deliberate speed. Keep in mind, more vaccine will be delivered over the coming days, weeks and months. The time to vaccinate willing individuals is now,” Hellerstedt wrote.

“Based on data reported to ImmTrac2, it has become clear that a significant portion of vaccine in Texas may not be administered yet. We know you have valid reasons as to why this has happened in some cases – but we also know that every day a vaccine sits on the shelf is another day that prolongs the pandemic that is hindering our state’s economy and way of life," he added.

The letter went on to urge timeliness and a sense of urgency, particularly as it relates to those who are willing to get the vaccine and are qualified to do so at this point. In Texas, people who are in Phase 1A and Phase 1B are among those who are set to receive the first.

Phase 1A includes healthcare workers and first responders, while Phase 1B pertains to people 65-years-old and older. Phase 1B also includes people who are 16-years-old and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19,

“There is no need to ensure all of your 1A group has been vaccinated before starting 1B vaccinations. If, in a given situation, all readily available and willing 1A and 1B persons have been served, we urge you to pivot again and provide vaccine to any additional available and willing persons, regardless of their priority designation. Every shot administered matters,” Hellerstedt wrote.

At Wise Health System in Decatur, the hospital reported all 1,165 doses administered within six days.

“We had no expectation going into this process of being able to provide the vaccine to as many first responder groups or even the public, but with extra doses in the vials, we were able to help protect our community beyond the walls of our hospital,” an update on Facebook read. “We know that the 65+ clinic did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. The decision was made to provide the vaccine to this critical age group on Tuesday morning and it was implemented in less than 24 hours.”

According to Wise Health System, they are the only rural hospital in Texas that has received the vaccine so far.

“We are thankful for this opportunity and we are hopeful that we will receive more doses in the future. And, hopefully we will have more time to plan and be able to have a larger space to hold the clinic. We will continue to communicate through Facebook if/when more vaccines are received,” the Facebook post read.

Dr. Meenakshi Ramanathan, an assistant professor of pharmacotherapy at the University of North Texas Health Science in Fort Worth, said the data from both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines appear promising. However, it will take time and cooperation to see effectiveness.

Ramanathan noted the medical victories that have come with the pandemic, along with challenges such as a virtual learning.

“Students are struggling with remote learning whether it’s your college students or elementary, K-12 students,” Ramanathan said. “In order for us to be back in person and have herd immunity with the vaccine, approximately 70% of the people need to get the vaccine.”

Hellerstedt’s letter went on to say, entities understand their own individual situations best, so DSHS is asking “you to take the initiative and push forward aggressively with administering all the vaccine dose you have received.”

Hellerstedt added they want every dose administered and reassured more is on the way.

For more information on Texas' vaccine distribution plan, click here.

A copy of Hellerstedt's letter is below:

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