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Who gets COVID-19 vaccine first once it's available? Texas has a plan

A spokesperson said there are still a lot of unknowns, like the exact timing for vaccine availability, as well as how many doses Texas will get.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ top health agency says it has a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The Texas Department of State Health Services submitted what it calls the first iteration of this plan to the CDC Friday.

Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the department, said there are still a lot of unknowns, like the exact timing for vaccine availability, as well as how many doses Texas will get.

But a few things are certain, according to Van Deusen. The vaccine will be in limited supply, and there won’t be enough vaccines for everyone who might want it in the beginning. The CDC provided guidance regarding the groups and populations who should be given vaccine priority.

“Possibly in that November, December timeframe, we could start to see those first doses become available,” Van Deusen told KHOU 11. “That's not going to be widespread vaccination for everybody who wants it. We're going to have to do that in a targeted way. So focusing on those critical populations like health care workers, other frontline critical workers, and those people who have health conditions, who are elderly, who are at greater risk of complications if they get COVID-19.”

Here is the draft of the plan

Van Deusen said he expected the vaccine could be more widely available the middle of 2021. That’s when more Texans may see their doctors, pharmacies, local health departments and other providers offer what could be one- or two-dose vaccinations.

“They're all a little bit different,” Van Deusen said. “Most of them require two doses. And so that's something that we'll need to keep track of carefully as the vaccine gets distributed in Texas. Because, you know, if you get a dose from a certain manufacturer the first time, you need to be able to get that's the same vaccine the second time.”

He said typically the Lone Star State received 10 percent of the nation’s vaccine supply, based on the state’s size, but it is unknown what the initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine will look like.

The plan now, Van Deusen said, is the state will get weekly allocations from the CDC; a contractor will receive the doses and distribute them. 

“We will primarily be relying on existing providers,” Van Deusen said. “We're asking health care providers in Texas to sign up with us. You have to enroll with DSHS, has to become a COVID vaccine provider.” 

If you have family in a long-term care facility, you can ask if the facility signed up with the Department of State Health Services to be able to administer the vaccine.

For Texans living in more remote areas, the state may have to step in to help, possibly sending in teams to help provide the vaccine to those who choose to take it.

Van Deusen said the federal government will be providing the vaccine for free, but whether you’ll have to pay an administration fee is still being decided.

“A vaccine will be available, and we're planning for that eventuality despite that there are still question marks about it. We don't know exactly when. We don't know exactly how much, but we’re proceeding with planning so that we can get the vaccine out to the people who want it as quickly as we can once it becomes available,” Van Deusen said.