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COVID-19 Vaccinations Continue in Critical OFS States

In the United States, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine continues to be administered at a pace slower than anticipated. Just 4.5 million people have received their first dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). White House officials predicted 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of December. While the federal government is responsible for shipping, distribution to healthcare professionals falls to state and local governments.

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

The federal government continues distribute vaccine doses to individual states. States have developed distribution protocols within guidelines provided by the federal government. Many states have deviated from official CDC guidelines to distribute vaccines to those over 65 and with pre-existing conditions before “essential workers.” 

Under federal guidelines, which the majority of states are following, most OFS workers are classified as “essential workers.” OFS sector workers will receive vaccines in an order determined by their state and locality. Each state has slightly different procedures. 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 as the process continues. 

As of early this week, Texas reported more than 282,000 people have received at least one dose. However, local health officials say that number is an undercount. 

Additionally, there has been confusion, technical errors, logistical delays and shortages as the state rolls out the vaccine. As it continues to receive doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Texas is distributing statewide to hospitals, pharmacies, local health departments, freestanding ERs and other clinics. 

Currently, Texans who are frontline health care workers, or residents of long-term care facilities, are eligible to receive the vaccine as the Phase 1A group

Though vaccine supplies are limited, Texas has opened registration for the Phase 1B group. This includes people 65 years of age and older, or people 16 years of age or older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at high risk. Essential workers who do not otherwise fall into Phase 1A or Phase 1B will begin registration for the vaccine after IB is complete.  

Houston launched online registration to schedule vaccine appointments free of charge. So far 2,000 people received doses in the city, while more than 56,000 were vaccinated in Harris County overall.

In New Mexico, the vaccine is currently being given to frontline healthcare workers, first responders and those in long-term living facilities as part of the Phase 1A group. Officials haven’t been clear about when the next group will get the vaccine.

The state launched an online platform where New Mexicans can register and be notified once they can be vaccinated. One in 10 New Mexicans have registered, and a call center is expected to launch later this week.

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 is currently distributing vaccines to its Phase 1 category, which includes health care and long-term care workers, public health staff, EMTs and paramedics. Phase 2 – which includes first responders, adults over 65, and teachers – begins this week. The state has already administered 50,330 doses across Oklahoma’s 77 counties. It has received a total of 174,900 doses. 

Oklahoma’s plan says “critical infrastructure personnel” are included in Phase 3, which will begin when there is “sufficient supply and slowing demand.” 

Up until last week, only certain hospital workers and people who lived or worked at nursing homes were eligible for vaccines. The state reported at least 282,000 people received at least one dose as of Thursday. Local health officials say that number is an undercount. 

Beginning this week, Louisiana will offer vaccines for people 70 and older, ambulatory and outpatient care personnel, dialysis patients, students of allied health, and home agency patients and personnel. The state warns that far more people will qualify (an estimated 640,000 new people) than the number of doses available. 

The Louisiana Department of Health’s draft vaccination playbook lays out a detailed plan for the state’s vaccine distribution.  

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



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