AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The head of the team determining the vaccine priority groups and which medical providers get doses each week said Thursday it was too early to say when Phase 1C of the rollout would be announced.
Dr. Imelda Garcia, chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) and associate commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services at the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the panel is developing the metric for what will trigger the next phase of the vaccine distribution rollout.
Phase 1A includes health care workers, while Phase 1B includes Texans older than 65 and adults with at least one chronic medical condition. Garcia estimated a “blended transition” into Phase 1C.
“We’re gonna be here for a while,” she said about Phase 1B.
Garcia said more than 2 million doses have been administered, with approximately 1.7 million people getting their first dose and 307,000 people receiving both doses. Nearly 1 in 13 Texans 16 and older is vaccinated, and more than 1 out of every 6 Texans 65 and older is vaccinated.
The vaccine allocation from the federal government will rise to approximately 385,000 doses next week, Garcia stated, which is an increase from the roughly 333,000 the state distributed this week.
Texas will see an extra boost in allotment next week, as the federal government returned about 126,000 first doses that were initially set aside for the federal program established to vaccinate people in long-term care facilities.
“It was overestimated the number of doses that was needed for that program and so we did work with our federal partners in order to get those back to say that we allocate them out,” Garcia said.
Garcia shared a map highlighting the percentages of allotment to population and vaccine administration to population from the first seven weeks of the state’s rollout, explaining the allocation panel uses the data to see how doses are distributed.
Because Texas does not expect an exponentially-higher allotment of doses from the federal government next week, Garcia said there will not be any new vaccine hubs added to the already 82 hubs statewide.
Garcia explained the process by which the weekly allotments are determined. Over the weekend, the EVAP drafts the plan, walking through a final draft on Monday. On Tuesday, Texas finds out from the federal government how many vaccines it will get. The panel spends the next couple of days making revisions based on the new numbers, and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt signs off before the doses are distributed by the end of the weekend. The process then starts over.
Garcia also highlighted the state’s newly-launched mobile vaccination units, a pilot program starting with five rural Texas counties similar to the mobile testing teams which utilized soldiers to reach under-tested areas.
At Hendrick Health in Abilene, the hospital system was on the receiving end of approximately 40 military medical personnel from the Department of Defense deployed to the Key City to help staff overfilled hospitals. Around 40 others were split between Lufkin and Eagle Pass.
“Really excited about getting additional help from the state and from the Department of Defense coupled with the vaccine,” Hendrick Health president and chief executive officer Brad Holland said Thursday.
“Hendrick Health treats 9% of the landmass of Texas, across 24 counties,” Holland said. “That’s how much vaccine we need. We need 400,000 doses to treat the Big Country residents.”
“It’s about getting shots in arms,” Holland said. ‘The state has a difficult job — this is a simply supply and demand issue — there is not enough supply to meet the demand.”
“Just as Hendrick Health has called and tried to shake the trees to get more vaccine for the Big Country, so is every other hospital, so is every other hub,” Holland explained.
Asked whether she was satisfied with the pace of the rollout, Garcia said “we’ve done an amazing job, but we know we can do better.”
“We’re not satisfied with the supply that we’re getting and so we continue to push from that regard,” Garcia mentioned.
“So we will continue to work to improve how quickly we get it out, we’ll continue to fight for us getting more vaccines in Texas,” she added.
Photojournalist Ed Zavala contributed to this report.