Some Texans are expected to receive COVID-19 vaccines as early as next month, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced Monday.
The state’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation process was established by an Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP), chaired by Imelda Garcia, DSHA Associate Commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services.
Its 18-member panel includes two state senators and two state representatives, three doctors who hold chancellor or dean positions at the University of Texas System and Texas A&M University, and public health officials from across the state including one each from the cities of Houston and Amarillo.
The panel devised a method for vaccine allocation, including identifying which individuals who voluntarily choose to be immunized can be vaccinated first. The vaccines are provided free of charge through the federal government.
Gov. Greg Abbott said the state’s distribution plan “will help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, protect the most vulnerable Texans, and safeguard crucial state resources.”
EVAP has recommended, and the Commissioner of DSHA, John Hellerstedt, has approved health care workers who provide direct care to COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable residents to be the first group to receive the vaccine.
Texas will initially allocate COVID-19 vaccines first to 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.”
This includes hospital and long-term care facility staff members, emergency medical services employees and home health care workers.
Frontline workers “who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work” will be among the first to receive the vaccine.
After health care workers, next to receive the vaccine will be vulnerable populations at greater risk of severe disease and death if they were to contract COVID-19.
The panel has also considered “mitigating health inequities” due to demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography. Its consideration includes using data to determine access to vaccines in both urban and rural communities and affected ZIP codes.
The governor’s office said the process will be transparent in sharing allocation information with the public and seeking public feedback.
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