Texans living in long-term care facilities will be among first people eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

by Juan Pablo Garnham, The Texas Tribune.

People living and working in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living centers, will be among the first group of people eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Texas.

On Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that Commissioner John Hellerstedt added residents of long-term care facilities to the first tier of people who would have priority for the treatment.

The list already included hospital staff working directly with patients who have tested positive or are at high risk for COVID-19, emergency medical service providers who engage in 911 calls and home health care workers, among others.

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Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that long-term care facility residents being included in this priority group for receiving the early doses of the vaccine.

DSHS also announced how it will distribute of the first set of COVID-19 vaccinations throughout Texas. According to the agency, 224,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be shipped to 109 hospitals in 34 counties as early as the week of Dec. 14, depending on when the vaccine is authorized for use in the United States.

The allocation includes 49,725 doses for hospitals in Harris County; 27,300 doses for Dallas County; 18,525 doses for Tarrant County; 28,275 doses for Bexar County; and 13,650 doses for Travis County.

“As expected, the initial vaccine supply is limited, and the first week’s allocation is based on information submitted by vaccine providers when they enrolled, including the number of health care workers who can be quickly vaccinated and vaccine storage capacity at each site,” DSHS said in a news update on its website. “More vaccine will be available for more providers in the following weeks, including vaccine from Moderna once it is authorized.”

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An expert vaccine allocation panel defined the allocation process, and the strategy includes a list of priority recipients of the vaccine. Besides the first tier, which now includes nursing home residents, a second tier of potential recipients of the vaccine will include staff in outpatient care offices who interact with symptomatic patients, school nurses and funeral home workers, among others.