Coronavirus vaccine to arrive in Texas week of Dec. 14
Roughly 1.4 million Texans will receive the first of two doses of a coronavirus vaccine beginning the week of Dec. 14, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send the second doses for the same group in January, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The two pharmaceutical companies that have applied for emergency use authorization have developed vaccines that require two doses.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to make authorization decisions shortly after holding hearings Dec. 10 on a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and Dec. 17 for a vaccine developed by Moderna. The companies have said they are on track to produce 70 million doses worldwide by the end of the year.
“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,” Abbott said in a news release. “As we await the first shipment of these vaccines, we will work with communities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
But it will be months before every Texan has the option to get inoculated against the coronavirus.
The state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel created the distribution plan, which will initially allocate COVID-19 vaccines based on certain criteria.
Health care workers first
First in line will be hospital staff working directly with coronavirus patients, long-term care staff working with vulnerable residents, emergency workers and home health care workers.
The Department of State Health Services estimates there are 1.6 million Texans in the state’s health care workforce.
The second group to get inoculated will include staff in outpatient care offices who interact with symptomatic patients, direct care staff in free-standing emergency medical care facilities, certain pharmacy staff, public health staff, emergency response staff and school nurses.
As of Monday, 4,100 providers were enrolled through the state health agency to distribute the coronavirus vaccine. An additional 2,500 pharmacy chains were enrolled through the federal government, Van Deusen said.
There are 164 providers signed up to distribute the vaccine in Travis County, according to state health agency data.
The state has not yet released names of vaccine providers, but Van Deusen said they will include hospitals, large clinics, doctors’ offices and medical practices “that can vaccinate a large number of people initially.”
The vaccine plans come as Texas continues to experience a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
On Wednesday, the Department of State Health Services reported 14,758 new cases and 9,109 coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals — the most since July 31 — and health officials have warned that holiday gatherings could exacerbate the outbreak.
Texas peaked at 10,893 hospitalizations on July 22.
For at least a week, coronavirus patients in six hospital regions in Texas have occupied more than 15% of the areas’ total hospital bed capacity, according to the state health agency. The threshold triggers tighter business restrictions.
In September, Abbott allowed retails stores, restaurants and other businesses to operate at 75% capacity in hospital regions where coronavirus hospitalizations remained below 15%.
Abbott said bars could reopen in October at 50% capacity with the approval of local officials.
However, in hospital regions where coronavirus patients make up more than 15% of bed capacity for seven days, businesses and restaurants in those regions must reduce occupancy rates from 75% to 50%. Bars there must close, and elective surgeries must halt.
Regions anchored by Amarillo, Lubbock, El Paso, Midland/Odessa, Waco and Laredo met the threshold for tightened restrictions Wednesday.
But certain counties in those regions can be exempt from tightened restrictions if they report fewer than 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days and meet other criteria. The county judge must apply for the exemption, and 87 counties have qualified for the exemption, according to the Department of State Health Services.
Abbott has declined to adopt stricter statewide restrictions or to consider another shutdown of state businesses, focusing instead on promoting available treatment options and encouraging local officials to enforce his executive orders already in place, which include a mandate to wear masks in public.