More than 100 hospitals in 34 counties will receive Texas’ first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has announced.
The allocation – 224,250 doses to 110 hospitals starting Monday – was recommended by the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, which is made up of physicians, health experts, lawmakers, and DSHS officials.
The allocation strategy prioritizes essential health care workers and vulnerable populations and is in line with the panel’s guiding principles and health care workers definition.
“More vaccine will be available … in the following weeks, including vaccine from Moderna once it is authorized,” DSHS said in its announcement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last week issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine for adults 16 and older.
The FDA has published a fact sheet on the vaccine that includes information on adverse effects and dosage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website also contains training and education information on the vaccine. In addition, Pfizer has scheduled several vaccine education sessions throughout this week.
It is still unclear when vaccines will be made available to all physicians and practice staff throughout the state.
The Texas Medical Association has been involved in the planning discussions and has been advocating for all Texas physicians and their staff to be vaccinated and able to administer the vaccine quickly.
The first tier to receive vaccinations includes:
- Physicians and other staff who work in hospitals directly with COVID-19 patients;
- Health care professionals who care for vulnerable populations at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state-supported living centers;
- EMS providers who are engaged in 9-1-1 response;
- Home health care workers, including hospice care, who directly care for vulnerable and high-risk patients; and
- Long-term care residents.
Physicians and staff who care for symptomatic patients at outpatient facilities and emergency and urgent care facilities will be among the second tier to receive vaccines, according to the DSHS allocation plan.
In order to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, qualified physicians and practices first must register with DSHS’ Immunization Program Portal. Note that practices with more than one location will be required to register each location.
Also part of the Immunization Portal registration process, physicians and practices are required to enroll in ImmTrac2, the state’s vaccine registry, in order to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Typically, only pediatricians and physicians who regularly give vaccines are registered with ImmTrac2. However, state law mandates that vaccines distributed because of natural disasters or public health emergencies must be recorded in the registry.
TMA has created a checklist to help guide you and your practice through registration. It is important to complete the entire registration process in order to be eligible to receive any allocation of the vaccine. Enrollment processing can take 10 to 14 days.
DSHS has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that offers more details and requirements on enrolling in the registry. The FAQ also covers topics such as vaccine ordering and distribution, storage and handling, and state reporting requirements.
Find more information, including a portal registration guide, as well as vaccine management resources on the DSHS website.
If you have questions, contact DSHS’ COVID-19 Vaccine Provider hotline, which is available from 8 am to 5 pm (CT) Monday through Friday, at (877) 835-7750 or via email.
You are also encouraged to contact the TMA Knowledge Center with any questions or concerns at (800) 880-7955 or via email.
As always, find more information on the TMA COVID-19 Resource Center, which is continually updated with news, information, tools, and more.
Photos: UTHealth San Antonio received nearly 6,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 14. Credit: UTHealth San Antonio