Health care workers will be the first people in Texas to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once one receives emergency approval from the U.S. government, and on Monday a state panel of vaccine experts and politicians revealed which workers in the health field will receive top priority.
The “first tier” recipients, according to the panel’s new guidelines, include:
- Hospital-based nurses, doctors, custodians and other workers who have direct contact with patients
- Staff of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities who work directly with residents
- Emergency medical services providers such as paramedics and ambulance drivers
- Home health aides who manage “vulnerable and high-risk” patients
No COVID-19 vaccine candidate has received an endorsement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though several pharmaceutical companies have said they intend to seek approval for vaccines that showed promising results in widespread clinical trials. State officials anticipate that a vaccine could be approved before year’s end but say that supplies will be severely limited for at least a few months.
In their Monday announcement, state officials described an initial phase of distribution, known as phase 1A, that will focus on the health care workforce.
If there are enough doses to go around, a “second tier” of health care workers will also be eligible to be vaccinated, including:
- Nurses, doctors, custodians and other workers who interact with patients in outpatient settings such as doctors’ offices
- Workers in freestanding emergency rooms and urgent care clinics
- Community pharmacy workers
- Public health workers who administer COVID-19 tests
- Mortuary workers such as medical examiners and embalmers
- School nurses
Early estimates from the Texas Department of State Health Services found there are more than 5 million people who are vulnerable or work in front-line jobs that increase their exposure risk. That includes more than 3.9 million people who are 65 or older, more than 638,000 health care personnel, more than 327,000 acute care hospital employees, more than 137,000 nursing home residents and more than 66,000 emergency medical workers.
The state’s adult population also includes more than 9.4 million Texans with underlying medical conditions that could increase their risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19.
“Protecting health care workers is essential to keeping the health care system intact and able to care for COVID-19 and other patients, so phase 1A of vaccine distribution, when the vaccine supply is most limited, will focus on making vaccine available to health care workers,” the expert panel wrote.