AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voting Thursday afternoon to recommend Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the possibility of a rollout soon of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. feels more tangible than ever.
If the vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, health leaders in Austin have said the vaccine could be available to healthcare workers in Central Texas as soon as mid-December.
Local and state governments have already been planning for the expected approval of the Pfizer and other vaccines, so we already know quite a bit about how the vaccine will be rolled out in Central Texas once it is available.
Where will the first doses go?
Texas leaders have already made it clear that key healthcare workers will be the first to receive this vaccine.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has released a list of the major healthcare facilities across the state which will receive COVID-19 vaccine doses on the first week the vaccine is available.
13,650 of those doses will be sent to facilities directly in Austin:
- Seton Medical Center Austin – 2,925 doses
- UT Health Austin (Dell Medical School) – 2,925 doses (UT Austin said these are the doses going to its campus)
- Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas – 1,950 doses
- Dell Seton Medical Center At University of Texas – 1,950 doses
- South Austin Medical Center – 975 doses
- Austin State Hospital – 975 doses
- North Austin Medical Center – 975 doses
- St. David’s Medical Center – 975 doses
975 of those doses will be sent to Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle. Another 975 doses will be sent to Round Rock Medical Center, and 975 doses will also be sent to Baylor Scott & White Health MC Round Rock.
The next steps
Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations for the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), said he believes it’s likely the FDA will issue an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine in the next few days. Whenever that authorization is issued, he said “vaccines could start rolling” 24 hours after that point.
Van Deusen expects within several days, certainly within the week, of the Pfizer vaccine’s approval, it will arrive at Texas healthcare facilities. But he noted in addition to the FDA’s authorization, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee will also have to approve Pfizer’s vaccine before Texas healthcare facilities can start administering it.
“We expect more vaccines will be available in week two [of vaccine distribution], and it will be going to more providers,” he said.
There is a larger list of providers in regions around the state, which will receive shipments of the vaccine after the initial group of major hospitals received theirs. But DSHS said they haven’t posted that list yet as the specifics are still being ironed out.
“The Week Two plan is to expand distribution to more facilities and more types of facilities, we don’t have a final list yet; we are working on that now,” he said.
Austin Public Health has shared they are among around 150 providers in Austin who have registered with DSHS to receive and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
Right now APH is not sure when it will receive its first doses for distribution as the first doses are going directly to hospitals.
Austin Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said he is encouraged by the 95% effectiveness demonstrated by Pfizer’s vaccine in trials.
However, Escott noted, it will take a while to distribute the vaccine, especially considering the two required doses.
“How well it works at 95% is only after two shots,” Escott said of the Pfizer vaccine. “So it is important and will be important that folks understand that they must get two shots to be protected at that level.”