Caldwell County waits on COVID vaccine
Without a major hospital in its boundary Caldwell County is not receiving the highly anticipated COVID vaccine in the first week of shipments.
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received approval for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday December 11th, and shipments of the drug began hitting hospitals nationwide on Monday December 14th.
The state of Texas was allocated 224,250 doses in the first week, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). With limited initial supplies, hospital workers on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic have been prioritized to receive the vaccine first.
Ascension Seton Edgar B. Davis Hospital in Luling is the only hospital in Caldwell County, but with its smaller capacity, it did not make the first cut.
The first week of vaccine allocations are slated to go to large facilities that have indicated they can vaccinate at least 975 staff. Monday December 14th UTHealth Austin Dell Medical, UTHealth San Antonio, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston received 19,500 doses.
An additional 19 hospitals were listed to receive the vaccine on Tuesday December 15th, including hard-hit El Paso and the panhandle, as well as multiple facilities in Houston.
Seton Medical Center in Kyle is the closest hospital that is scheduled to receive the vaccine in the first week, according to DSHS’s Week 1 COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation list. The list shows they are to receive 975 doses. A delivery date was not available as of press time.
“Seeing the first doses of vaccine arrive in Texas is an important milestone signaling that a return to our way of life is within sight,” DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said in a press release.
Plans beyond the first week are still being developed. Priority will be heath care workers, and then long-term care facilities.
On December 11 Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the state will participate in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, a federal program to vaccinate residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
The program is free of charge to facilities and sends staff and Pfizer vaccines from partnering Walgreens and CVS locations to these facilities to vaccinate residents and staff who volunteer to participate, according to a release from the governor’s office.
According to the release the first vaccines included in this program will be provided to pharmacies the week of December 21, 2020, and the program will begin December 28, 2020.
Much of the decision about who will get what and when will depend on the production of the vaccines.
The Pfizer vaccine must be shipped in a minimum of 975 doses and kept in sub-zero conditions. That creates a logistical nightmare for rural communities who do not have the resources for sub-zero storage.
A vaccine made by Moderna that does not require sub-zero storage is currently pending approval for emergency use by the FDA. It is expected by the end of the week.
The Moderna vaccine would only require minimum shipments of 100 doses, which would make it a better alternative for smaller providers and rural areas.
Regardless of which vaccine Caldwell County ends up getting, priority will continue to be healthcare and long-term care facility workers. Other vulnerable groups, which will be determined by DHSH’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, will be determined in the coming weeks.
It will likely be months before any doses are available to the general public, and it will not be mandatory. A cost for the vaccine to the general public has not been announced.