HOUSTON — Texas Department of State Health Services tells KHOU 11 it’s identified about 20 sites across Texas that will be the first to vaccinate people when the Pfizer vaccine is approved. These are likely to be health care workers.
The vaccine has to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, a challenge Texas says, it’s prepared for.
“We're definitely ready,” said Imelda Garcia, Associate Commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services at DSHS, and the Chair of the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel at the agency.
The panel is a 17-member group that is developing strategies and plans for vaccine allocation to make recommendations to the Texas Commissioner of Health.
“With the Pfizer vaccine, the plan is to pre-position sites across Texas so that as soon as we do get approval from not only FDA, but also from the CDC ACIPs committee (Advisory Council on Immunization Practices), that we would be able to start vaccinating relatively quickly with that federal guidance,” Garcia said.
On Nov. 18, when KHOU 11 spoke with Garcia, she wasn’t prepared to publicly identify the 20 sites, saying the logistics were still being finalized.
“In order to be a pre-positioned site they had to have a deep freezer, they had to be a health care system that had over a thousand health care workers. So being able to easily meet one of the top tier populations, as CDC has laid out, and they also had to be able to store a thousand doses,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the panel is close to releasing the list of who will get the vaccine and in what order.
“The unknown piece right now is really what will the Texas allocation be initially,” Garcia said. “So depending on the flow of the vaccine and how much we get at one time, we'll determine how quickly we're able to move through different essential workers and start moving to the more general population.”
Garcia said the state will be sharing COVID-19 vaccine efforts with the public. What that will look like is still being figured out.
Garcia reiterated the vaccine is another way to fight the pandemic. It is not the silver bullet. She is asking Texans to wear masks outside, to protect yourselves and others.