State Vaccine Efforts Shift

Businesses can also sign up for a mobile vaccination team to immunize employees on location.

After President Joe Biden announced that the country would begin a shift from mass vaccination efforts to more tailored options in more neighborhoods, Texas health officials began making changes to the way COVID vaccines are distributed, too.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said this week that it will no longer allocate COVID-19 vaccine to providers on a weekly basis.

“Now that the supply of COVID-19 vaccine is regularly exceeding demand, DSHS will fill vaccine orders from providers as they come in and ship vaccine from the DSHS Pharmacy or place orders with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a daily basis,” a statement from the DSHS said.

“This is a big step in vaccine distribution,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services. “The ability to ship vaccine to pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and other providers as they need it will go a long way to making sure it is available when and where Texans want to be vaccinated.”

The agency said that now that the vaccine is more widely available with no wait and no appointment needed, it will begin working with existing providers, employers, and community organizations to provide opportunities.

Providers are also no longer required to use every dose in the week they receive it, as long as they store it under the proper conditions.

“DSHS is also encouraging providers to vaccinate anyone who wants to be vaccinated, even if that means opening a new vial for that person without knowing whether all doses will be used,” the statement said.

The DSHS also announced that, in anticipation of Pfizer’s vaccine receiving Emergency Use Authorization for ages 12 and older, the agency would begin inviting pediatric health care providers to enroll in the vaccine program.

“Vaccinating adolescents will bring us closer to ending the pandemic and getting back to normal,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “Starting the enrollment process now will enable pediatric providers to start vaccinating their patients soon after the FDA expands the Pfizer vaccine’s EUA.”

DSHS sent a letter to more than 3,000 pediatric providers enrolled in the Texas Vaccines for Children Program as well as to the Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society, and other provider groups inviting them to enroll.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that the state would launch a Mobile Vaccination Team Call Center.

Texas businesses or civic organizations can call 844-90-TEXAS and select Option 3 to schedule a visit from a state mobile vaccine team to vaccinate employees, visitors, or members.

To qualify for a visit, a business or civic organization must have 10 or more employees, visitors, or members who voluntarily choose to be vaccinated. Homebound Texans are also encouraged to call the hotline and select Option 1 to request a state mobile vaccination team to visit their home.

“Vaccines are the most effective tool in Texas’ fight against COVID-19, and we are committed to making COVID-19 vaccines even more widely available to Texans across the state,” said Abbott. “The State Vaccine Call Center will help connect businesses and civic organizations with these life-saving shots and ensure that more Texans have an opportunity to get vaccinated.”

State Mobile Vaccine teams are made up of members of the Texas National Guard and coordinated by the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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