HOUSTON — Following more promising news about COVID-19 vaccines Monday, we’re getting a better understanding of how they'll be rolled out across the state when they’re available.

In a release, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the state health department announced certain principles for who will get the vaccine first. The release didn’t have specifics about when the vaccines would be available, but it did list factors that would guide them on recipients.

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As we told you over the weekend, vaccines could be available as early as December 12.

The state says the first vaccines will be given to people who meet the following criteria, according to the release.

  • Protecting health care workers who fill a critical role in caring for and preserving the lives of COVID-19 patients and maintaining the health care infrastructure for all who need it.
  • Protecting frontline workers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work providing critical services and preserving the economy.
  • Protecting vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19.
  • Mitigating health inequities due to factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography.
  • Data-driven allocations using the best available scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, allowing for flexibility for local conditions.
  • Geographic diversity through a balanced approach that considers access in urban and rural communities and in affected ZIP codes.
  • Transparency through sharing allocations with the public and seeking public feedback.

KHOU's Anastasiya Bolton got more information about exactly who would get the vaccine first when it comes to healthcare workers. The state breaks healthcare workers down into two phases with multiple tiers.

Phase 1A

Protecting health care workers is essential so they’re able to care for COVID-19 and other patients. They will get the vaccine during Phase 1A -- when the vaccine supply is most limited.

There will be a tiered system to determine which health care workers are first.

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Tier 1

1. These hospital staff members working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19:

  • Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other support staff (custodial staff, etc.).
  • Additional clinical staff providing supporting laboratory, pharmacy, diagnostic and/or rehabilitation services

2. Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents:

  • Direct care providers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state supported living centers
  • Physicians, nurses, personal care assistants, custodial, food service staff at long-term facilities

3. EMS providers who engage in 9-1-1 emergency services like pre-hospital care and transport

4. Home health care workers, including hospice care, who directly interact with vulnerable and high-risk patients

Tier 2

1.  Staff in outpatient care offices who interact with symptomatic patients. 

  • Physicians, nurses, and other support staff (custodial staff, etc.)
  •  Clinical staff providing diagnostic, laboratory, and/or rehabilitation services
  • Non 9-1-1 transport for routine care

2. Direct care staff in freestanding emergency medical care facilities and urgent care clinics

3. Community pharmacy staff who may provide direct services to clients, including vaccination or testing for individuals who may have COVID

4. Public health and emergency response staff directly involved in administration of COVID testing and vaccinations

5. Last responders who provide mortuary or death services to decedents with COVID-19. 

  • Embalmers and funeral home workers who have direct contact with decedents
  • Medical examiners and other medical certifiers who have direct contact with decedents

6. School nurses who provide health care to students and teachers

“It's so critical to protect health care workers because they are the key to keeping the health care system functioning properly,” Chris Van Deusen, Director of Media Relations for Texas Department of State Health Services told KHOU 11. “And if we continue to see many more of them get sick and not be able to be at work, that really hampers the health care system ability to care for people not only with COVID-19, but for the other things that that people need to go to hospitals and doctors’ offices for.”

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Van Deusen said more detailed plans for Phases 1B, 2 and 3 are in progress.

Here’s what Texans could expect in phase 1B.

Certainly we would expect those recommendations to be in line with the guiding principles that were published today,” Van Deusen said. “So not just health care workers who may be at a higher risk of being exposed, but also critical workers who have to be working to keep the critical infrastructure in the state's economy functioning and who may be at a higher risk of being exposed based on the nature of their jobs. And also, of course, those people who are at a greater risk of getting very severe disease if they are exposed. People, for example, who are elderly or have underlying chronic conditions that make them more susceptible to very serious COVID-19.”

DSHS said as the vaccine becomes more available in 2021, Phase 3 is when the rest of Texas should have access to it, including being able to get it at doctors’ offices, pharmacies or local health departments.

The principles were put together by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP), which was created by the state health department to make recommendations about vaccines.    

Here is Texas' plan for rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine

Texas Department of State Health Services tells KHOU 11 it’s identified about 20 sites across Texas that will be the first to vaccinate people when the Pfizer vaccine is approved.  Pfizer appears to be on track to be the first to offer the COVID-19 vaccine. The company has picked Texas as one of the states to test its distribution.

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