HOUSTON – Health care workers likely to provide direct care for COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable residents will likely be the first group to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Monday.
The coronavirus vaccine will be distributed across the state as early as next month, Abbott’s office said.
The news release said, “EVAP has recommended, and the Commissioner of Health John Hellerstedt has approved, health care workers likely to provide direct care for COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable residents to be the first group to receive the vaccine. This includes staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities, emergency medical services and home health care workers. As part of its ongoing work, EVAP will make recommendations on how and when to roll out vaccine to other critical groups.”
Abbott’s office said the following plan will serve as “the guiding principles for Texas’ COVID-19 vaccine allocation process.”
Abbott’s office said in a news release that the principles were established by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, created by DSHS to make recommendations on vaccine allocation decisions, including identifying groups that should be vaccinated first to provide the most protection to vulnerable populations and critical state resources.
“These guiding principles established by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel will ensure that the State of Texas swiftly distributes the COVID-19 vaccine to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized,” Abbott is quoted as saying in a news release. “This foundation for the allocation process will help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, protect the most vulnerable Texans, and safeguard crucial state resources.”
Texas will initially allocate COVID-19 vaccines based on the following criteria:
- Protecting health care workers who fill a critical role in caring for and preserving the lives of COVID-19 patients and maintaining the health care infrastructure for all who need it.
- Protecting frontline workers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work providing critical services and preserving the economy.
- Protecting vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19.
- Mitigating health inequities due to factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography.
- Data-driven allocations using the best available scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, allowing for flexibility for local conditions.
- Geographic diversity through a balanced approach that considers access in urban and rural communities and in affected ZIP codes.
- Transparency through sharing allocations with the public and seeking public feedback.
Here is a classification of health care workers, based on a news release from the state.
Phase 1A: Health Care Workers Definition
1. Hospital staff working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19. Includes: a. Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other support staff (custodial staff, etc.) b. Additional clinical staff providing supporting laboratory, pharmacy, diagnostic and/or rehabilitation services 2. Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents. Includes: a. Direct care providers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state supported living centers b. Physicians, nurses, personal care assistants, custodial, food service staff 3. EMS providers who engage in 9-1-1 emergency services like pre-hospital care and transport 4. Home health care workers, including hospice care, who directly interface with vulnerable and high-risk patients
1. Staff in outpatient care offices who interact with symptomatic patients. Includes: a. Physicians, nurses, and other support staff (custodial staff, etc.) b. Clinical staff providing diagnostic, laboratory, and/or rehabilitation services c. Non 9-1-1 transport for routine care 2. Direct care staff in freestanding emergency medical care facilities and urgent care clinics 3. Community pharmacy staff who may provide direct services to clients, including vaccination or testing for individuals who may have COVID 4. Public health and emergency response staff directly involved in administration of COVID testing and vaccinations 5. Last responders who provide mortuary or death services to decedents with COVID-19. Includes: a. Embalmers and funeral home workers who have direct contact with decedents b. Medical examiners and other medical certifiers who have direct contact with decedents 6. School nurses who provide health care to students and teachers
The Texas Hospitals Association shared this statement on Monday in response to Abbott’s plan.
“The speed, thought and teamwork that went into the state’s vaccine plan is tremendous, and we’re grateful to see top billing for health care workers as they press on every day under the weight of this deadly disease. Protecting health care workers is an important step to ensuring a healthy workforce able to treat those who become acutely ill.
“With a solid plan, an imminent vaccine and better treatment protocols, we can start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. We are confident in the state’s plan that puts hospital staff – including physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other clinical and support staff – working with high-risk patients in the first tier for vaccine allocation.
“As an ad hoc member of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, the Texas Hospital Association applauds the work of the group and continues to push for the resources hospital workers need to protect themselves and their families while they work on the frontlines. Texas continues to flex resources and trigger additional staffing so people get the care they need, but public prevention must stay strong.
“Until we see a vaccine come through, our chief focus is prevention fatigue and reminding the public of their role in staying safe. Wearing masks, socially distancing and avoiding large gatherings are key steps to fighting disease spread. With hospitalizations climbing above 8,000 and cases continuing to surge, Texas hospitals are on high alert for additional hotspots as we head into the holiday season.
“On behalf of nearly 500 Texas hospitals and their employees, THA urges the public to strictly heed all precautions and stay vigilant so that hospitals can remain ready and able to provide help to those who need it most.”