Healthcare workers in need of vaccine can look beyond their institution, according to state guidance

Vaccine options for health care workers
Vaccine options for health care workers

HOUSTON – The Texas Department of State Health Services says some healthcare workers are growing frustrated since they’re not affiliated with large institutions to receive the vaccine for coronavirus. However, that doesn’t mean that can’t access a vaccine elsewhere.

For example, pharmacies like those at HEB and Randall’s grocery stores have received the vaccine and say their first priority is healthcare workers. However, the state recently issued guidelines to continue vaccinating even if it means working down the list of prioritized patients.

Click here for clarification on who is in Phase 1A and Phase 1B.

Guidance on Vaccinating Phase 1A and 1B Populations

“As COVID-19 vaccine begins to be distributed more widely in Texas, the opportunity to vaccinate additional individuals will increase. The Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) encourage vaccine providers to continue to prioritize limited supplies of vaccine for the Phase 1A populations of front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. In the interest of public health and providing maximum protection in Texas communities, providers should seek opportunities to utilize any remaining doses to vaccinate other at-risk populations in their area.

“In recognition of the challenges and difficult decisions, providers must make in determining how to use vaccine in an efficient and responsible way, EVAP and DSHS encourage the following:

“• Hospitals and other large providers that have received COVID-19 vaccine should look for ways to vaccinate other health care workers in their community and the surrounding area. Some healthcare workers who work in smaller settings and are not affiliated with a large institution are reporting difficulty in accessing vaccine. Hospitals and other large providers may be in a unique position to assist in this unprecedented situation by serving as community vaccinators for health care workers in Phase 1A.

“• In situations where providers have reached all readily available and willing people in Phase 1A, they should begin to vaccinate people in Phase 1B, those age 65 and older or with high-risk medical conditions. Continue to prioritize Phase 1A as people in that group present. This will allow providers to appropriately prioritize while maximizing the number of people vaccinated. DSHS and EVAP trust vaccine providers to expedite the use of this precious resource in the fight against COVID-19, just as we count on all Texans to work together to ensure these early supplies of vaccine go to the people who need it most,” according to a post from Dec 24, 2020, on the DSHS website.

Plus, large institutions with enough vaccines for their own employees should expand to cover other frontline workers.

Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse said most importantly, everyone who wants a vaccine can eventually have one, just be patient.

“Those who got vaccine told the state who they intended to give it to and they, you know, the state will be watching that. I hear that there’s frustration because people are hearing stories (and we’re hearing them) of people who didn’t seem like they really met the criteria, but they got it from somebody and that, that adds some frustration. So, I would make the appeal to those that have the vaccine and who are giving the vaccine. You really need to stick to the priorities that the state has set going forward. Having said that, the state also said that if it looks like you’re running out of people in the top, the top tier, quickly move on to the second tier,” Dr. Persse said.

The state-issued guidance to move down the priority list from frontline workers to essential workers and people 65 and older. However, of the local hospitals KPRC spoke with, they say if it gets the point of moving toward vaccinating patients, they will notify those patients who are most at-risk, but they haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Do I need a second dose of the vaccine?

Both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. Pfizer should be taken 21 days apart. Moderna should be taken 28 days apart.

How will I know when to get the second dose?

It may take a while to get to the point of supply where doctors are calling you to come in. When they do, you’ll be issued a card from the CDC. It tells you which vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) you received, the date you got it and whether you need to follow up at 21 or 28 days.

As for whether there will be enough doses to do this all over again at the 21 and 28-day mark, the state has continued to say that will not be an issue. They encourage the organizations who have the vaccine to continue maximizing the number of people they give the shot to.

Here’s some insight from one local institution that recently received the Moderna Vaccine:

Q&A with Dr. Melanie Mouzoon, managing physician for immunization practices and pediatric hospitalist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

Do y’all have a plan for allocating doses that are not used by your staff?

  • Once our healthcare personnel and affiliated providers at Kelsey-Seybold have been offered vaccination, we will then move to the next tier per the guidance from the state, which includes first responders and certain patient populations at high risk of severe illness or with increased risk of being exposed, including patients over 75.
  • As we receive and administer the vaccine supply we will be moving into the next tier(s) accordingly and in a manner that no vaccine supply is wasted.

Will you move to the next tier if you need to or are you saving doses for the staff who already received vaccines and will need a booster in 21/28 days?

  • We anticipate continuing to offer to all in the initial 1a tier even as we move into vaccinations for tier 1b. The State has plans to ship second doses to us in a timely manner, so we are not holding vaccine supply to administer a second dose at the present time, though we may be asked to do so in the future.

Is the second dose is the same cocktail as the first?

  • The second dose of the vaccine will be the same manufacturer and ingredients but may be a different lot number. Individuals need to get the same vaccine for the second dose as for the first, and we [Kelsey-Seybold] anticipate continuing to receive the Moderna vaccine for the foreseeable future.