Texas DSHS unveils COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Department of State Health Services unveiled its plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution Monday.

DSHS’ plan was submitted to the Centers for Disease Control on Friday, and changes will be made along the way once a vaccine has officially been approved and distribution begins. It was developed, in part, using lessons learned from the H1N1 vaccine distribution.

“It’s good to use our experience from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic,” said Dr. John Carlo, on the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force, “Although I will say this is going to be a much different plan, because it’s a much different virus.”

Part of those differences include prioritizations and the course of shots. Most vaccine trials right now will require two doses, versus just the one dose of the H1N1 vaccine.

The health department concluded the best model for distribution would be public/private partnership, which was used with the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Health providers will specify the number of vaccines needed, along with demographics. In turn, DSHS will coordinate the distribution of the vaccine and communicate with distribution centers across the state.

Healthcare providers can register to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine on DSHS’ web portal.

DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt announced the plan at the state’s Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response’s virtual meeting Monday.

The vaccine will first go to vulnerable and frontline populations, which include healthcare workers, residents in long-term care facilities, people who have underlying health conditions and people who are 65 years and older.

“Enough vaccines to be available to the general public is probably many months away,” Dr. Hellerstedt said.

In addition to the physical distribution of the vaccines, another crucial part of the distribution process will be communication. That’s another lesson learned from the H1N1 vaccine distribution process.

“Changes in priority groups were confusing to the public and health care providers, and the communication was challenging,” Imelda Garcia, with DSHS’ Division for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services, explained.

The state plans to purchase ads on TV, radio, and digital platforms, including social media to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, once it’s available.

“This is probably going to be our biggest challenge, our biggest issue, and one that’s going to require, I think, the biggest degree of collaboration, and partnerships from really a wide wide expansive of the different communities that that’s this, the state is consisting of. We have to build that trust,” Dr. Carlo said.

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