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The Ellis County Judge released an update concerning the COVID-19 vaccine.

Kenya Menjivar
Waxahachie Daily Light

The first round of the COVID-19 vaccine was distributed in late November 2020, to hospital facilities.

An update in regard to the COVID-19 vaccine was given on Jan. 4 by the Office of Ellis County Judge Todd Little, which oversees rural jurisdiction of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) over Ellis County in public health planning and coordination.

Who is eligible for a vaccine?

At this time, the DSHS has communicated to local officials that they currently do not have a public vaccination distribution plan. In other words, there is currently not a public COVID-19 registration process available.

The current mechanism for vaccine distribution is for pharmacies, doctors, long term care facilities and first responders.

DSHS Vaccine Allocation Guiding Principles Texas will allocate COVID-19 vaccines that are in limited supply based on:

  • 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 front-line 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.

Although the vaccine supply remains limited, more vaccines will be delivered to providers each week.

Additional eligible recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, depending on availability and the vaccine provider, include:

  1. People 65 years of age and older
  2. People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to:

- Cancer

- Chronic kidney disease

- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies

- Solid organ transplantation

- Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)

- Pregnancy

- Sickle cell disease

- Type 2 diabetes mellitus

What entities have obtained vaccines in Ellis County?

Currently, Ellis County has 37 providers that have enrolled to obtain vaccines.

Out of the 37, 17 have been approved by DSHS to receive vaccinations. The other remaining 20 are still in progress.

Ellis County providers have received limited shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations instead of the Pfizer version, due to logistics of the required ultra-cold storage. As of Jan. 4, DSHS has allotted 1,600 doses to Ellis County to the entities shown in the graphic.

DSHS has allotted 1,600 to Ellis County to the entities in this graphic.

Ellis County entities can become distributors of the COVID-19 vaccination and enroll with DSHS to become a vaccine provider. Once approved by DSHS, the provider will be allotted a limited amount of vaccinations to be distributed to those that fall within the categories who are eligible to receive vaccinations.

Anyone seeking to receive vaccinations will need to coordinate with their local doctor or pharmacy.

Distribution phases

DSHS has multiple distribution phases regarding the COVID-19 vaccine:

Phase 1: This phase took place from late November to December 2020, with limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses available. McKesson (the logistic provider) directly shipped vaccines to registered providers serving healthcare workers, critical infrastructure/essential workers, and other prioritized populations based upon the DSHS Commissioner's approval in accordance with CDC and ACIP recommendations.

Occupational healthcare settings and existing vaccinators serving closed settings were the primary administrators. Some large chains were enrolled directly by CDC to serve some targeted populations (long-term care facilities).

They continued ongoing provider recruitment and registration to ensure access to vaccination.

Phase 2: The second phase will take place January through July 2021, with the number of vaccine doses available increasing.

McKesson will continue to distribute vaccine and ancillary supplies directly to providers.

Emphasis will be on ensuring access to the vaccines for members of Phase 1 critical populations who were not yet vaccinated, as well as for the general population. The aim is also to expand provider network.

Texas will use specialized vaccine teams, as needed, to vaccinate identified critical groups lacking access to the vaccine (i.e., long-term care facilities, rural communities, and others).

Phase 3: The third phase will take place from July to October 2021, with sufficient supply of vaccine dose available for the entire population.

DSHS will focus on ensuring equitable vaccination access across the entire population. They will monitor vaccine uptake and coverage and reassess strategies to increase uptake in populations or communities with low coverage.

They also may consider extending the use of vaccine teams, depending on the uptake and coverage received thus far, especially to ensure second doses are administered from the end of Phase 2.

Phase 4: The last phase is set to take place in October 2021 and beyond, with sufficient supply of vaccines and a decreased need due to most of the population being vaccinated previously.

It may include boosters or annual vaccines if required.

Vaccine availability will be open throughout private providers. The general population will be able to visit their provider of choice.

Additionally, DSHS is broken out into several regions across the state of Texas. Ellis County currently falls under Public Health Region 2/3, which consists of 49 counties. More information regarding Public Health Regions can be found at https://dshs.texas.gov/regions/default.shtm .