Austin Public Health prepares to start doling out COVID-19 vaccines next month

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With news Wednesday that pharmaceutical company Pfizer plans to seek Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA soon to begin distributing its COVID-19 vaccine, Austin Public Health’s Vaccine Distribution Coalition is preparing to dole out vaccinations in the coming weeks.

The coalition is made up of stakeholders from Austin Public Health, local hospital systems, public safety leaders and advocates for high-risk members of the community. The group is currently determining how it will administer the first phase of vaccinations.

APH is making preparations to be able to begin administering vaccines to priority populations, which includes groups like critical workers in health care, public safety and staff and clients of long-term living facilities, once vaccines arrive, which could be as soon as December.

“We know phase one, it will be a finite resource, and so we’ll have to be very judicious in how we use that vaccine,” said APH Interim Assistant Director Cassandra DeLeon.

Phase one of vaccine distribution in Austin will likely take place through January, according to DeLeon.

Once more vaccinations become available, APH projects the general public will be able to receive the shots in phase two, between April and the summer months.

DeLeon says the coalition is still working out details of where vaccinations will be administered and how the county will target and communicate with those who receive them. Following up with vaccine recipients to ensure they go through with their booster shots will be an important part of the process.

“It is really important for whoever receives a first dose of vaccine to remember they’re not fully protected from COVID until they get that second vaccine,” DeLeon said.

APH says it will report any adverse side effects its patients experience to the state, and those will become part of the vaccine documentation.

Pfizer tells KXAN many of its trial participants have felt “hangover-like” side effects—head and body aches—that haven’t been serious.

KXAN spoke to Austinite Nico Saldivar, who is participating in a vaccine trial through Benchmark Research. He says he was told by those administering the vaccine that he is a participant in the Pfizer trial.

“It certainly wasn’t comfortable,” Saldivar said. “But, you know, considering what the point of it is, it was not much to deal with.”

While participants aren’t told whether they’re getting the actual COVID-19 vaccine or a placebo, Saldivar says he did have a pretty typical reaction to the shots. He says the first shot only created some mild swelling and redness at the injection site.

“And then as far as the booster goes, that’s when I really felt it,” he recalled. “It was red, it was slightly swollen and a little more swollen than the initial shot.”

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