How will booster shots be distributed in Texas? Advocates want nursing homes prioritized

Nursing Home Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting on Sept. 20, the general public will get the green light from U.S. health officials to receive a COVID-19 booster shot — if it’s been eight months since their second dose.

Some healthcare workers, along with people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, may already be in that eight-month window and wonder what plans are in place for third-dose distributions.

“Every day that we miss an opportunity to get them their booster shots, their efficacy of their vaccines wanes. The elderly are so susceptible to this virus,” worries Brian Lee, head of the senior advocacy group Families for Better Care.

Vulnerable nursing home and assisted living facility residents were among the first group to receive vaccine eligibility in December 2020. The vast majority of homes received doses through a coordinated, national effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Walgreens and CVS pharmacies.

Lee told KXAN he’s concerned, as he hasn’t heard of a similar effort to ensure these residents get to the front of the line for booster shots.

“Really, there have been no plans to get those boosters out to residents,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services said they are looking at ways to help facilitate distribution in these facilities since they have heard those pharmacies are unlikely to participate in a similar program this time around.

Michelle Neumann is the Senior Administrator Specialist at Austin memory care center Silverado Barton Springs. Her mom also lives at the community.

“We were happy to hear that there would be a booster. Just one more layer of protection,” she said.

According to state data, their facility has reported no cases of COVID-19 among residents during the pandemic. Neumann credits their extensive COVID-19 safety protocols, but also their 100% vaccination rate among residents and staff associates.

“They’re all for it. They’re like, ‘When can we do this? When can we be ready?” she said, of the booster shots.

She said their community was working with Omnicare and CVS to set up a third-dose clinic — potentially around mid-September, when they had already scheduled a flu shot clinic. Once it gets scheduled, she expects it to go smoothly.

“Anything that we can do as a group to protect our elderly and protect our coworkers,” Neumann said.

Booster shots for the general public

When KXAN asked about other details regarding a rollout for boosters after Sept. 20, the spokesperson said, “They are the same vaccine doses as currently available, so there’s not really a separate rollout that will be happening.”

They did send an email to vaccine providers last week, urging them to consider how much vaccine they need to have on-hand.

They also warned that full size orders (450 doses of Pfizer or 140 doses of Moderna) are taking five to seven business days to deliver from the CDC. Smaller orders are processed by the state and take 7-10 business days, the email stated.

The state also encouraged providers to use the ImmTrac vaccine tracking system to identify and contact patients who fall within the suggested booster schedule.

Right now, the state is not publishing data on how many third-doses have been distributed to eligible, immunocompromised individuals.

“We’re still determining the best way to account for them,” the DSHS spokesperson said. “Third doses are not currently being included in the doses administered data, and we’re determining how to do that once they are okayed to begin.”

The federal Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) was originally scheduled to meet and possibly make an official recommendation about the need for boosters on Aug. 24. That meeting has been pushed back by the CDC to Aug. 30, according to their website.

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