AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first Texans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations. Gov. Greg Abbott expects the first vaccine shipments to come as early as December, according to a release from his office and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The “guiding principles” for the distribution process, which were established by the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, were released on Monday by Abbott’s office.

This criteria will be used for initial distribution when the state receives its first doses of the vaccine, the release says.

  • Protecting healthcare workers who fill a critical role in caring for and preserving the lives of COVID-19 patients and maintaining the health care infrastructure for all who need it.
  • Protecting frontline workers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work providing critical services and preserving the economy.
  • Protecting vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19.
  • Mitigating health inequities due to factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography.
  • Data-driven allocations using the best available scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, allowing for flexibility for local conditions.
  • Geographic diversity through a balanced approach that considers access in urban and rural communities and in affected ZIP codes.
  • Transparency through sharing allocations with the public and seeking public feedback.

The COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel is made up of medical and legislative leaders from across the state. The EVAP will make recommendations on how and when to roll out vaccine to other critical groups.

Local medics say they are pleased with the governor’s decision to prioritize frontline workers. ATCEMS Association President Selena Xie said dozens of her fellow colleagues have come down with COVID-19. Allowing healthcare workers to receive the vaccine first will bring them peace-of-mind and allow them to do their job better, she says.

“We are constantly terrified of giving it to our families,” Xie said. “At least we’ll know that hopefully we won’t be bringing it home or that we won’t get it.”

Dr. David Lakey, the Chief Medical Officer and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for the University of Texas System and the former Commissioner of Health for the State of Texas, has been helping the Department of State Health Services with the distribution plans. He says there are still major logistical challenges to be worked out, including properly recording who has received which vaccine and which facilities have the storage necessary to keep them at the proper temperature.

“The state will have to work through the different vaccines it receives and how it can allocate all of them in a way that gets the maximum benefit from all of them,” Lakey said.

The City of Austin is brainstorming solutions among a coalition of stakeholders, including local hospitals, clinics and community advocates.

Austin Public Health officials say the department has been running through practice scenarios with the flu vaccine to test the infrastructure currently in place.

“We are doing everything that a local government can be doing to make sure we are adding value to this process of getting this vaccine out,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

“These guiding principles established by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel will ensure that the State of Texas swiftly distributes the COVID-19 vaccine to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized,” said Abbott in a release. “This foundation for the allocation process will help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, protect the most vulnerable Texans, and safeguard crucial state resources.”