Local officials said they are still working to vaccinate front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities before moving on to people 65 and older and others with certain medical conditions.
In some Texas cities, including Houston, people in that second group of eligible recipients already are receiving their vaccinations.
All providers that received the vaccine were directed on Tuesday by the Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt to “immediately vaccinate” all eligible Texans. This includes phase 1A, which prioritizes health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, while phase 1B prioritizes people 65 and older and those who are at least 16 with a qualifying health condition.
Hellerstedt released a similar message last week in a letter to providers, according to the Texas Tribune, urging those with vaccine doses not to wait until everyone in the 1A group had been vaccinated before moving on to the 1B group.
Sara Mendez, Support Services Manager for the Brazos County Health District, said Wednesday that despite the state-level announcement, local entities have not yet started giving the vaccine to people in phase 1B.
“People are hearing from a state level, ‘Oh, we can go and get it,’ and in some cities, you can, like in some of the bigger cities,” she said. “But they received more vaccines than what we have locally.”
The first round of COVID-19 vaccines from the state arrived in College Station about a week before Christmas and went to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center. According to the state’s week two allocation chart, several more locations received the vaccine last week, including Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy in Bryan, five Bryan-College Station H-E-B pharmacies, and Legacy Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bryan. CHI St. Joseph’s Bryan and College Station Hospitals and Primary Care William D. Fitch locations are also on the list.
This week, the state website said that additional doses will go to CHI St. Joseph Bryan and College Station hospitals and the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station.
The Texas Tribune said doses of the vaccine are not widely available even for people eligible under the first phase. The Department of State Health Services said 1.2 million doses have been allocated across the state since the first shipments began arriving in Texas on Dec. 14; about 1.9 million Texans fall under Phase 1A, according to the Texas Tribune’s Wednesday article.
In a Thursday statement via email, Baylor Scott & White Health said that it is eager to begin immunizing the public but is continuing to vaccinate its health care workers.
“In most cases, we are distributing the doses we receive within hours of securing the shipment,” it said. “Immediately after our health care workers are vaccinated, we will begin immunizing priority patients and community members.”
H-E-B has requested another allocation of vaccines from the state, according to a Wednesday press release.
“Our initial allocation has either already been distributed or is scheduled to be administered,” the statement reads. “We are awaiting another allocation of vaccine from the state of Texas so we can continue to vaccinate health care providers as well as begin offering vaccine to those in Phase 1B. Once we have supply, we will activate a scheduler tool on our website so people can schedule an appointment.”
Brookshire Brothers said in a Wednesday press release that it is continuing to vaccinate people in phase 1A before moving on to 1B. Those who currently qualify to receive the vaccine must make an appointment with their local pharmacy, the statement says.
“We are currently seeking out members of the health care worker population and have begun scheduling appointments for those who are at the highest risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” Director of Clinical Pharmacy Programs Laura Edmundson said in the statement. “The transition between the groups will likely vary between Brookshire Brothers locations, depending on the demand and need within each community.”
Baylor Scott & White created the bswhealth.com/covidvaccine website, where people can sign up for COVID-19 vaccine updates.
The CHI St. Joseph website says that the initial doses of vaccines currently are being made available to health care workers “and others as identified by the CDC.” Updates for its hospital can be found at stjoseph.stlukeshealth.org/covidvaccine.