Texas health officials prepare for coronavirus vaccine distribution


AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation Now) — The city of Austin is preparing for mass distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, even though there isn’t one available yet.

The move comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directed all states to start preparing for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1.

In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, the health agency’s director said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corporation. The health care company has contracted with the CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

While the Texas Department of State Health Services said it’s preparing for vaccine distribution with the CDC, Austin health officials are making plans based on lessons learned from previous outbreaks, NewsNation affiliate KXAN reported.

“We are definitely prepared using lessons learned from H1N1,” said Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden.

While H1N1 was the most recent virus outbreak, a vaccine was developed more quickly because it was a strain of the flu, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Phil Huang told KXAN.

“There’s more experience each year with the development of the flu vaccine. This is a novel coronavirus. It’s new,” Dr. Huang said.

Austin health officials are planning to distribute the vaccine through “mass clinic settings or even drive-thru settings,” according to Janet Pichette, the city’s public health chief epidemiologist. But efforts cannot be finalized until a vaccine is officially approved.

Texas officials have said that priority will be given to those who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19. While H1N1 vaccines were first distributed to pregnant women due to their vulnerability to the virus, coronavirus immunization priorities are expected to look different, KXAN reported.

“Persons, you know, older, over 65. Those with chronic health conditions are some of the most vulnerable,” Dr. Huang said.

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