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Texas announces those prioritized in second round of COVID vaccination plan

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday announced those who are at the greatest risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 — specifically those 65 and older and those 16 and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from coronavirus — will be prioritized in the next phase of vaccination.

The DSHS defined the group as COVID-19 vaccinations at The Medical Center of Southeast Texas and other hospitals across Texas head into a second week.

Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at 1:30 p.m. today (Dec. 22) at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin. President-elect Joe Biden was vaccinated at a Newark, Delaware, hospital on live television Monday.

The Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Dana Steffer gave the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Port Arthur at 1:34 p.m. Dec. 17 to Christy Wright, a medical-surgical and COVID medical floor nurse. Both of Wright’s parents contracted the disease over the summer, and her father died of COVID-19 on Aug. 1.

“I want to do all I can to help not spread this deadly virus,” Wright said in a Medical Center news release.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Dec. 11 for persons 16 and older and distributed in Texas last week. A week later, the FDA authorized a second vaccine from Moderna for individuals 18 and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the Pfizer vaccine is not interchangeable with other COVID-19 vaccine products and adds those who begin the series of doses with one product should use that same product on the second dose.

“The instructions given by Pfizer and CDC outline the second immunizations should take place 17 to 23 days after the first initial vaccination,” said Angie Hebert, director of marketing and public relations for The Medical Center of Southeast Texas.

Up to five doses at The Medical Center can be administered from each vial once it’s defrosted, Hebert said.

“There are not any left over [in a used vial] because we have been proactive in our planning and making sure we have five people present for each vial,” Hebert said. “It holds for a few hours.

“Once we have a head count of people who have arrived for their vaccine, those vaccines are prepared. There’s no leftover.”

The Moderna vaccine is likely to be distributed to rural areas and smaller healthcare providers, because it’s shipped in smaller quantities and can be stored longer at regular refrigerator temperatures, DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said. CHRISTUS Southeast Texas St. Elizabeth in Beaumont stored its Pfizer vials at minus-86.08 degrees Fahrenheit upon receiving the initial package Dec. 17.

An arrival date of the doses for the Port Arthur Health Department is not yet established, Director Judith Smith said.

DSHS did announce last week other hospitals, freestanding emergency rooms, emergency medical service providers, local health departments, health centers and other clinics in Texas are expected to receive the doses starting this week.

The first vaccines to Texas pharmacies under the state’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, including Walgreens and CVS locations, are expected to come this week, with the program to begin Dec. 28.

Vaccines for the general public, however, are not expected to be available until the spring.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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