Updated at 6:15 p.m.: to include more details about expected shipments.
AUSTIN — Texas will receive an initial 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines later this month, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an allotment of 1.4 million doses for Texas for the month of December, Abbott announced. Approximately 224,000 doses should arrive the week of Dec. 14 and are expected to go mostly to hospitals, so they can vaccinate front-line health care professionals and other hospital workers who have contact with hospital patients.
Bigger shipments are expected to follow in the week of Dec. 21, assuming a second vaccine manufacturer obtains federal emergency authorization by then.
And increased allotments are expected in January and the following months, Abbott said in a written statement.
“The state of Texas is already prepared for the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, and will swiftly distribute these vaccines to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized,” he said. “As we await the first shipment of these vaccines, we will work with communities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
The 1.4 million doses would be the first of two shots for 1.4 million Texans, with vaccine for the second round of shots for the initial recipients arriving in January, according to Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen.
Last week, a group advising state health commissioner John Hellerstedt identified about 1.6 million health care workers who will be first to receive COVID-19 vaccine.
Hence, the initial allotment from the CDC would be enough to cover nearly 88% of the hospital, nursing home, EMS, home health, outpatient care and community pharmacy workers who fit the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel’s definition of health care worker. So do school nurses and people who work for health departments and other entities that have agreed to receive and administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
The first week’s shipment is expected to consist of vaccine created by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, Van Deusen said. Moderna Inc.’s vaccine is expected to move to production and distribution almost as fast.
“If the schedule unfolds as we expect and both vaccines are authorized, it would be just the Pfizer vaccine the first week and then both Pfizer and Moderna in subsequent weeks,” Van Deusen said.
As of Monday, more than 4,100 health care providers and institutions in 227 of the state’s 254 counties had signed up to receive shipments of vaccine and administer the shots.
Along with pharmacy chain locations, that means there will be at least 6,600 sites across Texas where health-care professionals will be giving shots, Van Deusen said then. Many pharmacy chains, including grocery stores with pharmacies, will be receiving shipments from the federal government that are separate from the ones flowing to the state health department.
In early weeks of the distribution, the state health department will be making some of its decisions based on how big a hospital or other facility is – given that Pfizer will ship in 975-dose batches, while Moderna puts 100 doses in a batch, Van Deusen said. For instance, one Pfizer batch would be enough to give initial shots at a hospital with about 1,000 employees, he said.
In later phases, the state expects to send vaccines to doctor’s offices, pharmacies and other facilities that have volunteered to receive and administer the shots, Van Deusen said.
Texans should feel free to ask the vaccinator which company’s vaccine they’re getting, he said.
“Everybody’s going to get a card, like a physical shot record essentially, that tells them, you got this manufacturer, this lot number. You know, come back in three weeks or four weeks, depending on whatever vaccine you’ll need for your second dose,” Van Deusen explained.
The state won’t be notifying individuals as to when they’re eligible to get shots, he said.
But the state will be running public service announcements and using other ways of informing people about who the priority populations are and what is happening, he said.
Doctors and other professionals who traditionally administer regular flu vaccines probably will be reaching out to their patients and customers, Van Deusen noted.
Vaccine distribution system
Last week, the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, which includes lawmakers, academic medical leaders, public health experts and other officials, recommended seven standards that should guide distribution.
On Tuesday, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that the CDC put nursing home residents and residents of other long-term care facilities at the front of line for receiving COVID-19 vaccine, along with health care workers.
Van Deusen said he expects the state’s panel, which met Tuesday and is meeting again Thursday, to discuss the federal advisory committee’s advice about moving long-term care residents into the very first group of vaccine recipients.
“I don’t know what they’ll do on it, … but it’s possible,” he said.
Though Abbott’s statement didn’t specify which company’s vaccine will arrive first in Texas, Van Deusen said it very likely will be that of Pfizer and BioNTech.
Theirs is the furthest along in receiving emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, he noted.
Moderna’s vaccine, which is close behind Pfizer’s in getting that FDA emergency approval, could be part of the shipments Texas receives in the week of Dec. 21, Van Deusen said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech product will be discussed next week by an outside panel of experts advising the FDA, with Moderna’s to be discussed by the same group the week after. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford also have reported favorable results from clinical trials for their new vaccine.
In each case, the vaccination would require two doses. With Pfizer, the doses need to be administered three weeks apart, Van Deusen said. With Moderna and the Oxford-AstraZeneca group’s vaccines, second shots come four weeks after the first, he said. A vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson would require only one shot, he noted.
Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It is going to come on dry ice and the feds are going to send the first replenishment of dry ice, alongside it,” Van Deusen said. “So it’ll be good for up to five days with what [vaccinators] get — even without, you know the super cold freezer. And then they can replenish that” with dry ice every five days for up to 30 days, he said.
Moderna’s vaccine, though, doesn’t need the super-cold storage.
”It’s shipped frozen and is good in a refrigerator for 30 days,” Van Deusen explained.
Companies such as Pfizer and Moderna have been manufacturing doses, but it could take several months to make enough to vaccinate the general population. President Donald Trump’s administration has speeded vaccine development by some of the manufacturers through Operation Warp Speed.