Texas health officials preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution by end of October

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas health officials are preparing for COVID-19 vaccination distribution as several vaccine candidates move into the final phases of trials. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised states to be ready to distribute as early as October.

“We’re able to push vaccine out through traditional ways, through mass clinic settings or even drive-thru settings,” Austin Public Health Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said, discussing how the Austin area has been preparing.

While the Texas Department of State Health Services said it is actively working alongside the CDC to prepare, local health officials are making plans based on lessons learned from previous outbreaks.

“We are definitely prepared using lessons learned from H1N1,” APH Director Stephanie Hayden said.

While H1N1 was the most recent virus outbreak, vaccine development was quicker then because it was a strain of the flu.

“There’s more experience each year with the development of the flu vaccine. This is a novel coronavirus. It’s new,” said Dr. Phil Huang, Director of Dallas County Health & Human Services.

The H1N1 vaccines were first given to pregnant women, who were more vulnerable to the disease. With COVID, immunization priorities will likely be different.

“Persons, you know, older over 65. Those with chronic health conditions are some of the most vulnerable,” Dr. Huang explained.

Doctors hope the existing COVID-19 testing systems can easily turn to deliver vaccinations, explained CEO of Premiere Family Physicians Dr. Kevin Spencer.

“We have the muscle memory around doing the COVID testing, to watch the ability to from a staffing standpoint and capabilities in scale standpoint, to rapidly give the vaccine similar to the way we’ve been doing drive up nasal swabs, etc. So the workflow exists,” Dr. Spencer said.

For health care providers interested in signing up to administer the vaccine, the DSHS’ registry can be found here.

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