State health officials are urging facilities that have received COVID-19 vaccines to not delay administering those vaccines and to report all inoculations to ImmTrac2, the state’s vaccine registry.
“Based on data reported to ImmTrac2, it has become clear that a significant portion of vaccine in Texas may not be administered yet,” John Hellerstedt, MD, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), said in a letter to facilities. “We know you have valid reasons as to why this has happened in some cases – but we also know that every day a vaccine sits on the shelf is another day that prolongs the pandemic that is hindering our state’s economy and way of life.”
The letter comes as the third week of vaccine distribution begins in Texas. More than 250,000 doses are expected to be delivered to more than 350 facilities in 94 Texas counties this week, DSHS said.
The agency said Texas has been allocated about 1.2 million doses of vaccines manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna throughout the first three weeks of the state’s distribution strategy, which prioritizes essential health care workers and vulnerable populations according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation guiding principles.
Under the plan, the first priority group 1A to receive vaccinations includes physicians and other staff who work in hospitals directly with COVID-19 patients; and health care professionals who care for vulnerable populations at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state-supported living centers, other essential healthcare workers, and long-term care residents.
The second priority group 1B includes all Texans ages 65 and older as well as most people with conditions that put them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, pregnancy, and obesity.
Physicians and health care workers are still prioritized in priority group 1A before 1B; however, facilities should be flexible in certain allocation scenarios to avoid vaccine waste, Dr. Hellerstedt said.
“Once all readily available and willing members of the primary Phase 1A priority populations have been served – including 1A persons outside your facility – we urge you to pivot quickly and begin providing vaccine to as many readily available and willing Phase 1B persons as possible,” Dr. Hellerstedt’s letter says. “If, in a given situation, all readily available and willing 1A and 1B persons have been served, we urge you to pivot again and provide vaccine to any additional available and willing persons, regardless of their priority designation. Every shot administered matters.”
It is still not clear when all Texas physicians will be able to receive and administer COVID-19 vaccines. The Texas Medical Association continues to call for all physicians, medical students, and residents to be prioritized for vaccines at this time.
In order to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, qualified physicians and practices first must register with DSHS’ Immunization Program Portal. Also part of the Immunization Portal registration process, physicians and practices are required to enroll in ImmTrac2, and they will also need to use the Vaccine Allocation & Ordering System (VAOS).
TMA has created a list of ten things to know to administer COVID-19 vaccines and 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 and 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.