AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that Texas now has more than 7,200 providers signed up statewide to administer COVID-19 vaccines once they become available.
Abbott shared that information while discussing vaccine distribution alongside three other governors at a White House summit. He said the thousands of providers will help “make sure we put needles in arms within 24 hours of getting vaccines.” Earlier this week, the state reported the number of providers was more than 4,000.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar moderated the panel. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis also joined the discussion. Azar said the panel included them as well as Abbott because they each have “exceptional” plans and should serve as models for vaccine distribution preparations.
Abbott said the state already ran several mock distributions in advance to avoid any missteps. He said Texas providers will remain in communication with people who get the first dosage in the two-step process if they receive the Pfizer vaccine. The governor said that will include a reminder card listing where and when people should return to get the second dosage on top of text messages, phone calls, email reminders and a statewide communication plan.
Abbott said the state would like to “make sure there is an inescapable way” for people to ensure they’re “fully vaccinated.” However, he pointed out people will not be required to take a vaccine.
“We know that you are not going to be forced to take a vaccine against your will,” Abbott said Tuesday.
Last week, Abbott estimated the first vaccines for COVID-19 would arrive in Texas starting Dec. 14. While the top vaccine candidates have not yet been approved in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as soon as this week.
Abbott said Texas is expecting to get 1.4 million doses of the vaccine in the first round of distribution, and plans to distribute them first to healthcare and frontline workers, as well as those at greater risk if they get the virus.
During the panel at the White House, Abbott said the state is planning to send mobile medical units to more underserved areas once the COVID-19 vaccines are widely available to the public. He also reminded people that the shots would be free.