Texas plans for 1.4M vaccine doses as hospitalizations rise

Students waking in the hallway at Tibbals Elementary School place their arms in front as a reminder to socially distance in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

By PAUL J. WEBER Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — How soon Texas nursing home residents will have access to the first coronavirus vaccine shots is under discussion as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott expects an initial round of 1.4 million doses to begin arriving later this month.

Across the country, states are drafting plans to determine who will go to the front of the line when the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine become available. Nonbinding guidelines adopted this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put health care workers and nursing home patients first.

Texas has put hospital staff, nursing home workers and paramedics at the top of the list — known as “Phase 1A” — followed by a group that includes outpatient medical employees, pharmacists, funeral home workers and school nurses. Nursing home residents were not among those first tiers in Texas but that list could be revisited, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“Nursing home residents are still under discussion,” Van Deusen said in an email. “With the CDC’s advisory committee recommendation this week that nursing home be in 1A, that could be a change for Texas.”
Early estimates from Texas health officials identified more than 1 million workers in frontline medical jobs. The vulnerable population in Texas includes more than 137,00 nursing home residents and nearly 4 million residents over the age of 65, according to a draft of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan released in October.

Texas has a statewide population of about 29 million.

The first doses of the vaccine are set to arrive as hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Texas are at the highest levels since a deadly summer surge. More than 9,100 virus patients are hospitalized, the most since July, when hospitalizations peaked at nearly 11,000.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living issued a letter to governors as officials in a handful of states have released priority lists that do not put long-term care residents in the very first group of Americans to be vaccinated. “We want to make sure long term care residents and caregivers are given the vaccine first as there are real life and death outcomes at stake,” the group said.

On Wednesday, the Association of Texas Professional Educators expressed confidence that teachers in public schools would be included in the second phase of access to the vaccine, although state officials have not yet revealed the next stage of recipients.

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