AUSTIN (KXAN) — People with certain medical conditions or who are 65 and older are next in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Texas, but they could have to wait several weeks. Right now, there are still healthcare workers in line.
“We know everybody is anxious about it,” said Dr. Diana L. Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association. “Of course that seems nerve-wracking when you want to have it as soon as possible.”
The Texas Department of of State Health Services said there were roughly 1.9 million Texans who qualified for the first round of vaccine distribution, called Phase 1A. In this first phase, there are two “tiers.” Tier 1 includes:
-Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, custodial and other support staff in hospital settings working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19
-Additional clinical staff providing supporting laboratory, pharmacy, diagnostic or rehabilitation services
-Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state supported living centers
-EMS providers who engage in 9-1-1 emergency services like pre-hospital care and transport
-Home healthcare workers, including hospice care, who directly interface with
vulnerable and high-risk patients
-Residents of long-term care facilities
Tier 2 includes:
-Physicians, nurses, custodial staff, or clinical staff providing diagnostic, laboratory, or rehabilitation services in outpatient care settings who interact with symptomatic patients
-Non 9-1-1 transport for routine care
-Healthcare workers in corrections and detention facilities
-Direct care staff in freestanding emergency medical care facilities and urgent
-Community pharmacy staff who may provide direct services to clients, including
vaccination or testing for individuals who may have COVID
-Public health and emergency response staff directly involved in administration of
COVID testing and vaccinations
-Last responders who provide mortuary or death services to decedents with COVID-19, including embalmers, funeral home workers, medical examiners and other medical certifiers who have direct contact with decedents
-School nurses who provide health care to students and teachers
However, Fite said her association is hopeful healthcare workers across the state will all be vaccinated even sooner, by the end of December.
“They tried to prioritize of course those with the intensive care units, the emergency departments—the people who are seeing the majority of the patients who are in those states that are most contagious, and then working their way down from there,” Fite said. “Even if one is a little bit above another, they are still expecting those to be taken care of within a week or two, so there is not much difference there at all.”
With the Moderna vaccine’s newly granted emergency authorization, the association expects distribution to accelerate.
“They could be distributed in smaller quantities—a hundred doses at a time instead of a thousand doses like Pfizer,” she explained. “So, they can start going to offices, pharmacies and smaller facilities than these huge medical centers, so there will be more coming down the pipe pretty quickly.”
She also noted some medical students had already received vaccines.
“They have to be working with patients. That is the way they learn, that is medical school,” she explained.
Dr. James McDeavitt, Dean of Clinical Affairs for Baylor College of Medicine, said their resident physicians are considered frontline providers and have either been vaccinated or are scheduled to receive a vaccine soon. He also noted medical students who are on clinical rotations will be vaccinated as well.
A spokesperson for Dell Medical School in Austin said they were prioritizing the order of provider, staff and student vaccinations on a “case-by-case” basis, determined by how much direct interaction with patients each person has. They are also staggering workers within departments to ensure there are no staffing shortages in the case someone experiences any side effects.
Fite said they were aware of similar plans at healthcare systems across the state, but she has heard “very few” reports of side effects, so far.