AUSTIN (KXAN) — At a press briefing from Austin health leaders Wednesday, Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said she is hopeful that starting as early as January, more Austin healthcare providers may be able to expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution to other community members who are not healthcare workers.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has created a phased approach to vaccine distribution across the state. Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and DSHS announced healthcare workers would be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with the first vaccine shipments expected as early as December.

The DSHS Plan has several different phases.

  • Phase 1 will go primarily to healthcare workers
  • Phase 2, which is expected to last from January 2021 to July 2021, will continue to target the groups from Phase 1 while also adding more vaccine providers and offering the vaccine to critical groups who lack access, such as long-term care facilities and rural communities
  • Phase 3, which is expected to last from July 2021 to October 2021, will see DSHS focusing on equitable distribution of the vaccine across the entire population
  • Phase 4, which is expected to last from October 2021 onward, is expected to see a sufficient supply of the vaccine and decreased need due to most of the population being vaccinated previously. This vaccine may include boosters or annual vaccines if required, and vaccine availability throughout private providers.

Hayden explained APH has to provide the timeline the state set up. APH already knows the initial timeline for December as they are expected to receive Phase 1 of the vaccine.

“So we are looking forward to Phase 2, because Phase 2 will have additional providers—not just the hospitals—but it will also include Austin Public Health and CommUnity Care for example,” Hayden said, adding that phase will also include pharmacy providers in the Austin community.

A spokesperson for APH clarified that in Phase 2, these Austin healthcare providers would be able to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to certain populations as instructed by DSHS.

“So that will help us to be able to provide the vaccine across our community starting hopefully in January and moving further into the year,” Hayden continued.

She offered a caveat: “we can never anticipate exactly how much we are going to receive, but we will be ready to provide the vaccine to our community with our partners.”