Thousands of Texas healthcare providers enrolled to distribute COVID-19 vaccine

HOUSTON – State health officials said more than 5,000 healthcare providers have enrolled with the Texas Department of State Health Services to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.

Texas is expected to receive 224,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first week following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for emergency use.

As KPRC 2 reported, the state wants all frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents vaccinated first. Texas’ Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel is working on who will be among the next to receive the vaccine. In broad strokes, the state wants those most vulnerable to the virus and frontline workers crucial to the economy to be next in line.

“This disease isn’t uniform, it’s not affecting people uniformly across the population,” said Chris Van Deusen, with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Data will drive this answer, which Van Deusen said could come as early as next week.

“Where do we see the most burden of disease, who are the most vulnerable populations and who is really at risk?” Van Deusen said.

“What safeguards are there to make sure that people don’t, I guess for lack of a better term, line jump?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“That’s in the hands of the provider,” Van Deusen said.

However, that’s not to say everything is on the honor system. Only documented healthcare providers who’ve enrolled with the state can receive the vaccine.

“You have to agree to store the vaccine as intended, you have to agree to log those doses in within 24 hours and follow the allocation decisions as decided by the state,” Van Deusen said. “We want to make sure the people who need the vaccine most can get it.”

Every dose will also be tracked through the state’s immunization database, along with who is receiving the vaccine. Healthcare providers also had to prove they could store the Pfizer vaccine at sub-zero temperatures.

“We want to make sure the people who need the vaccine most can get it,” Van Deusen said.

Texas’ first-week allotment schedule shows the nearly 225,000 doses will be sent to 109 healthcare providers in 34 counties. The Houston area will receive 58,475 of those initial doses.

Van Deusen said each week the Centers for Disease Control will notify Texas as to how many doses it will receive the following week. The state panel will then decide where those doses will be sent. Van Deusen said it will likely be spring or early summer before the vaccine is widely available to everyone. He added the number of doses coming to Texas each week will grow as more vaccines are approved for use.

To get the vaccine distributed across the state as quickly as possible, the state opted for direct delivery, meaning the vaccine will go directly from Pfizer to healthcare providers. This decision was made from lessons learned during the distribution of the H1N1 vaccine.

You can read the distribution plan Texas submitted to the CDC below.

Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

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