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States Begin COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Next Phases Remain Unclear

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that Moderna’s vaccine is effective and safe for use. An independent committee will meet with the agency Thursday to discuss emergency use of the vaccine. 

Last week, this same panel authorized use of Pfizer’s vaccine throughout the U.S. and distribution began earlier this week. Between the Pfizer and Moderna shots, officials estimate enough doses for 20 million Americans this month. 

Governors and health departments continue to encourage Americans to get their flu shot and wear a mask whenever they are outside the home. 

The federal government will distribute vaccine doses to individual states. The states have developed distribution protocols within guidelines provided by the federal government. OFS sector workers will receive vaccines in an order determined by their state and locality. The “essential worker” category comprises more than 70 million individuals nationwide.  

PESA has been in contact with state governments about the prioritization processes and will update members on information related to the OFS sector workforce. 

TEXAS
December 14, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stated in a press release that the first shipments of the vaccine had arrived: “19,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered today, and an additional 19 sites will receive 75,075 doses on Tuesday.” 

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHHS) said the state was allocated 224,250 doses of vaccine to be shipped to 110 providers across the state in the first week of distribution. The focus is on facilities that will vaccinate at least 975 frontline health care workers since that is the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine. More vaccine will be available next week. 

The allocation strategy was recommended by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel and approved by DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD. The panel prioritized health care workers to protect those caring for COVID-19 patients and to preserve the health care system’s ability to function. The TDHHS submitted its first version of the vaccination plan to the CDC and is waiting for approval. 

In the Texas plan, “other vulnerable frontline workers” are listed as a focus for initial COVID-19 vaccination, however these non-healthcare groups have not yet been defined by the EVAP. Deemed essential workers throughout the pandemic, the OFS sector could receive doses if they are included in this group. 

NEW MEXICO
New Mexico received 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as part of the first distribution wave. Healthcare workers and nursing home residents will receive doses, along with those who have direct contact with patients or work with vulnerable populations. 

The New Mexico Department of Health drafted its initial vaccination plans in October and recently issued updates. Later phases and groups have not been finalized, but the state is working to identity those most at risk of facing serious illness. Those groups, which could include essential workers, will have vaccine priority. 

OKLAHOMA
The state received 33,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and by the end of the month will have received 166,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Oklahoma’s plan says ‘critical infrastructure personnel’ are included in Phase 3, which will begin when vaccine production details are known. 

COLORADO
The Colorado Department of Public Health received 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and will be distributed in phases according to a draft plan. An expected 95,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected later. The plan’s first phase will include critical populations such as healthcare workers, and people in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. 

LOUISIANA
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana received 39,000 initial doses with first shipments going to hospitals this week. The state expects to receive another 40,000 doses next week. The Louisiana Department of Health’s draft vaccination playbook lays out a detailed plan for the state’s vaccine distribution. 

The state is particularly focused on vaccine skeptics. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a doctor, believes skeptics will become more comfortable as others they know are vaccinated. Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health are planning a significant marketing campaign and will rely on grassroots efforts to engage local leaders to urge vaccination.

For more information, contact PESA Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley.

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