Austin Public Health prepares for a future COVID-19 vaccine while Gov. Greg Abbott deploys resources to El Paso

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health’s says it’s walk-up flu vaccination clinics are serving as a practice for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Saturday, an Austin Public Health walk-up flu shot event delivered nearly 200 vaccinations. Another clinic is expected to take place next month which will offer some 600 shots, according to officials.

“We are just making sure we have all the nuts and bolts in place so that we are ready once the COVID-19 vaccine comes around,” said Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette.

The second clinic will operate as a drive-thru event on Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane.

Austin Public Health also announced earlier this week a move to form a COVID-19 distribution coalition based on the fact that vaccine demand will be limited at first. The coalition is made up of health care and community partners.

“As we meet we are going to develop a distribution plan. In order to follow the outline provided, we are going to determine the priority populations, who we know in this community will be able to get the vaccine first,” said Pichette. “Health care workers and first responders will be the first to receive it.”

Pfizer, a pharmaceutical corporation, says we could expect results from its first COVID-19 vaccine trial as early as the first week of November. The Austin Regional Clinic is apart of the Pfizer vaccine trial which currently includes thousands of participants across the country.

“They believe they will have preliminary data that will suggest if it was positive or negative. They will also have safety data sometime mid November,” said Dr. Jay Zdunek, Austin Regional Clinic. “If all goes well, then it is anticipated that we may get rapid approval from the FDA.”

This discussion comes at a time when COVID-19 numbers are spiking in some areas of Texas.

Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a surge to send medical equipment and health care workers to El Paso.

“The medical personnel and supplies we are deploying to El Paso build upon the resources the state previously sent to the community and will provide much needed support to area hospitals and first responders. The State of Texas will continue to work with local officials to protect public health and help the El Paso community mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Governor Greg Abbott

A release said the Texas Department of State Health Services would deploy over 460 medical personnel plus equipment including:

  • Texas Emergency Medical Task Force ambulance bus
  • Medical incident support team
  • Five ambulances
  • Mobile medical unit to assist first responders
  • 48 patient monitors
  • 25 medical beds
  • 30 oxygen concentrators

Since Oct. 10, 40 support personnel from St. David’s HealthCare in Central Texas, including nurses, have been sent to El Paso to help in the fight against COVID-19.

According to a spokesperson for St. David’s HealthCare, those workers were sent to its affiliate hospital, Las Palmas Del Sol HealthCare to assist with the recent surge in cases for the region.

“Through their affiliation with HCA Healthcare, St. David’s HealthCare’s national partner, the healthcare systems are able to combine resources to strengthen their capabilities and improve care,” a statement from the spokesperson said in part.

The area has reported a record-breaking number of cases. As of Saturday, the city reported 10,911 active COVID-19 cases and 572 total deaths. Austin-Travis County had 850 active cases and 448 deaths, at last check.

Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott also requested to use William Beaumont Army Medical Center on Ft. Bliss for non-COVID patients to free up hospital beds in El Paso-area hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.

That assistance is on top of the resources Gov. Abbott, along with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and DSHS previously sent, which was 244 medical personnel, including respiratory therapists and nurses. Together that more than doubled the number of personnel in El Paso to help care for COVID-19 patients.

As of Oct. 22, El Paso’s emergency response warehouses were stocked with over 4.8 million masks, over 629,000 gowns and coveralls, over 400,000 gloves, over 38,000 face shields, plus more person that has been provided by TDEM.

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