AUSTIN (KXAN) — Healthcare providers such as hospitals and pharmacies will need to register with the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Immunization Program to be eligible to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, according to a press release from Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday.
Vaccines will be in short supply when production begins and will go first to critical populations such as healthcare workers and those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older people, according to the press release. Providers who enroll in the program must agree to vaccinate people regardless of their ability to pay.
“While potential COVID-19 vaccines continue to undergo clinical trials, the State of Texas is taking a proactive approach to ensure the vaccine is distributed as quickly as possible once available,” Abbott said in the press release. “Providing Texans with access to a voluntary vaccine and efficiently administering the immunization will be essential to containing COVID-19 and protecting the health of our communities.”
The DSHS plans to cover Texans in areas of the state where medical care is more limited and people have less access, said spokesman Chris Van Deusen. He said the DSHS doesn’t know how many vaccines will be available initially but that the state generally gets 10% of the nation’s vaccines based on population.
The vaccine could be available before the end of the year but it will be in 2021 when it becomes widely distributed for the public, Van Deusen said. He also encouraged people to continue safety precautions, as the virus can still be transmitted even with the vaccine.
“No vaccine is 100%,” Van Deusen said. “The more people can take other kinds of protective actions — handwashing, wearing a mask, social/physical distancing — all of that in combination with the vaccine is going to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help us get through this much more quickly.”