AUSTIN (KXAN) — If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the next couple of days, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said it expects Texas to get 460,500 doses of the vaccine in shipments next week.
After an FDA advisory committee voted Thursday to recommend granting Emergency Use Authorization for this vaccine, the FDA appears likely to grant its approval soon. The FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control still need to approve Moderna’s vaccine for emergency use before it can be distributed.
Moderna’s drug is poised to be the second COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. following the approval of Pfizer’s vaccine last week and distribution throughout the country this week. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared at a press conference Thursday a total of 224,000 of Pfizer’s vaccines have been distributed so far to the Texas healthcare workers receiving the initial doses. Abbott said the expected rollout of Moderna’s vaccine next week will help the state ramp up the number of vaccines it can send out to the point where Texas will be able to vaccinate one million people this month.
In clinical trials, this vaccine has been more than 94% effective against COVID-19.
Texans have played a significant role in the development of Moderna’s vaccine. Moderna worked with the University of Texas at Austin through the National Institutes of Health to use UT research on coronavirus spike proteins in this COVID-19 vaccine.
People from all over Texas participated in clinical trials for the vaccine, and the company’s “heat map” of participants for Phase 3 of the trial shows Texas with more participants than any other state.
“Hope in a syringe”
Austin resident Rachel Elsberry participated in Phase 2 of the Moderna trial and believes she benefitted from doing so.
During Phase 2, participants were given either a placebo, a 50 microgram dose of the vaccine or a 100 microgram dose of the vaccine. Participants have not been told which shot they got, but Elsberry believes she got one of the vaccine dosages.
Elsberry was given her first shot in June and the second one 28 days later. Each time, she said she was observed for an hour afterward to see if she had any adverse effects.
Prior to getting the shot, she said she was tested for COVID-19 antibodies and didn’t have any. Elsberry said she has never tested positive for COVID-19 during the many times she was tested throughout the trial.
Recently she got curious about whether she’d developed the antibodies and got tested privately, outside of the Moderna study. She said she tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, which she believes are from receiving the vaccine.
After Elsberry’s first shot in June, her arm was very sore at the injection site for several days. The day after her second shot, she said she felt sick and achy—symptoms which disappeared after some Tylenol and a nap.
“I’ll take those side effects any day of the week [rather] than contract a disease that could potentially kill me or make my life difficult for the rest of my life,” Elsberry said.
She participated in the trial through Benchmark Research in Austin and will continue to keep a diary and receive checkups for this trial through the summer of 2021. Moderna is still trying to learn more about the impacts of this vaccine over time and how long antibodies may last.
Elsberry said learning she had antibodies brought her to tears. She still plans to be cautious and wear masks but she feels a wave of emotional relief.
“I can’t describe what it feels like to have that anxiety level kind of gone,” she said.
Her experience with the vaccine trial has left her feeling very hopeful about the impact Moderna’s vaccine will have.
“I have called it hope in a syringe and that’s very much what I feel like it is,” she said.
Getting the vaccine to Texas
Chris Van Deusen, the Director of Media Relations for DSHS, told KXAN while Texas is expected to receive the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine next week, some of those shipments could stretch into the following week depending on how shipments roll out at the federal level.
The Moderna vaccine does not have to be kept at ultracold temperatures as the Pfizer vaccine does. Van Deusen explained the federal government is working with McKesson Corporation to ship out Moderna and all the other vaccines.
While the Pfizer vaccine requires minimum orders of 975 doses at a time, the Moderna vaccine ships in batches of 100, which Van Deusen noted may make it easier to for smaller healthcare providers and more rural areas to use.
He said once providers at a certain location start giving one type of vaccine, they will likely continue receiving that same vaccine—though there may be reasons for certain locations to switch vaccine types.
How many doses each location receives and where they are sent to will be determined on a week-by-week basis, Van Deusen said.
Based on the data DSHS has seen to this point, the department believes both the vaccines have roughly the same levels of effectiveness. Pfizer’s vaccine was shown to have 95% efficacy in clinical trials.
“They are proven, safe, and effective”Dr. John William Hellerstedt, DSHS Commissioner speaking about Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines at a press conference on Dec. 17, 2020.
Austin Public Health tells KXAN it will be up to the state to determine which places in Austin will receive the Pfizer vaccine and which places will receive the Moderna vaccine.
“Austin Public Health officials have read the documentation and watched the trials closely and are encouraged by the lack of adverse reactions to the vaccines in the trials,” a spokesperson for APH told KXAN.
“We encourage individuals who may experience adverse reactions to the vaccine to contact their vaccine provider so that they can provide the information to the FDA, CDC, and DSHS,” APH added.
If you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine, you can download the v-safe tool which checks in on you and lets you report affects from the vaccine to the CDC.