(TNS) - COVID-19 vaccinations are underway for health care workers at area Texas Health Resources hospitals and expected to arrive soon for first responders throughout Johnson County.
How soon vaccinations will be available to the general public remains to be determined. Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore on Monday estimated that late January/early February as the earliest possible time line for general public vaccine availability.
Cleburne Fire Chief Scott Lail on Wednesday morning said no date has been confirmed for the arrival of vaccinations for first responders but that he expects that announcement soon.
Texas Health Resource's central pharmacy in Fort Worth received two boxes containing 5,850 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday and began vaccinations at the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth later the same day.
"Our team members are exhausted from nine months of providing intensive care to seriously ill patients with COVID-19, but despite that weariness they continue to care for patients and their families each day," Texas Health CEO Barclay Berdan said. "The vaccine will help protect these heroes as they continue to serve the people in our communities."
Texas Health's initial allocation will be used to vaccinate front-line caregivers and other health care workers in emergency departments, Texas Health Media Relations Strategist Andy Wilson said.
Vaccination clinics are scheduled for 16 of Texas Health's hospitals this week with a goal of administering vaccines by the end of the day Friday, Texas Health Vice President of Pharmacy Randy Ball said.
Ball added that employees are not required to take the vaccination.
So far, 975 doses of the vaccine have been allocated to Texas Health Huguley Hospital.
Wilson said a number of doses have also been allocated to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne.
"As more vaccine becomes available, it will be offered to a wider group of health care workers in different setting within Texas Health with the intent of offering the vaccine to all Texas Health employees over time as the vaccine becomes available," Berdan said. "As this and other COVID-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use, we remain committed to evaluating what is safest and most effective."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that state health departments oversee distribution of COVID-19 vaccines within their states and, as such, the Texas Department of State Health Services, or DSHS, will serve as Texas' lead agency in distribution matters.
"DSHS will partner with other state agencies and key stakeholders to ensure that voluntary and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine occurs in a timely and efficient manner," according to DSHS's vaccination plan.
DSHS's plan involves several phases moving from front-line health care workers to first responders to vulnerable population to general population availability.
As part of their planning, DSHS reviewed lessons learned from the H1N1 pandemic including the need to form public/private partnerships for distribution and the need to maintain a multi-faceted communication strategy.
The reason for the phased rollout, according to DSHS's plan is that, "initial vaccine availability will not keep pace with demand and prioritization decisions will occur in stages as supply increases."
Moore and Lail said they continue to meet with state and other area officials but do not yet know the logistics of vaccinations once they become available to the general public.
"We're ready to work with whatever situation we're presented and do everything we can to help," Lail said. "But I hope, and what I think is going to happen is that the private sector will take care of much of the vaccinations for the general public and I imagine there will be some state assets as well like the state testing sites we've had around the county and have at the senior center right now."
Moore said he's heard no information on how much, if anything, the vaccinations will cost once they become available to the public.
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