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Local and state leaders detail COVID-19 vaccine plan as first distributions start next week

Among the thousands who signed up for COVID-19 vaccine trials is the newly elected president of the Houston Police Officers Union, Doug Griffith.

“I hope I can set an example,” said Griffith. “We’re supposed to lead by example, so I do everything I can to make sure our officers are protected. Somebody had to test these vaccines so I’m healthy. I thought it was a good choice for me to make.”

Griffith is now keeping an eye on when the vaccines will be available to police officers, though he knows it won’t be right away.

That’s because Texas is initially scheduled to get 1.4 million doses, with medical workers and nursing home residents being first priority.

“The initial shipment we are expecting is next week,” said Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is the agency charged with dispensing the vaccines to the medical facilities across the state. The big facilities that have a large number of healthcare workers that we can vaccinate and a short period of time, that’s the first places that will get the vaccine.”

In Houston, Memorial Hermann is set to receive 16,500 doses for its entire medical system, including outlying facilities.

“We have a total of 12 sites for administering the vaccine,” said Memorial Hermann CEO Dr. David Callender. “I know our 12 sites, we can deliver a total of 1,800 vaccines a day. It will take us nine to 10 days to work through the supply.”

Callender said after the initial 16,500 doses, the hospital system will then receive the follow-up doses for those workers in about three weeks.

Overall, state health officials have divided the Texas population into tiers, with priority 1 people getting the vaccines first, and the rest will follow in the following months.

In the greater Houston region, which encompasses Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Galveston, Brazoria, and several outlying counties, here is how priority 1 recipients are broken down:

  • Healthcare workers: 163,834
  • EMS personnel: 16,509
  • Acute hospital employees: 99,088
  • Nursing home residents: 23,848
  • Adults over 65+: 949,259

“I am extremely excited about it,” said Dr. Mike Chang of SE Texas ER. “I am certainly in the queue for one of the first shots, absolutely.”

As an ER physician, Chang is scheduled for one of the earliest shots, possibly as early as Dec. 17. As a medical director for one of the smaller hospitals in Laredo, he is also in the midst of determining how to distribute his allotment of 1,950 vaccine doses next week.

Whether managing a smaller hospital, running a huge system like Memorial Hermann, or executing a statewide plan, the guiding principle for those involved is a simple one: “We need to ensure those people who need it most get it first.”

For the rest of Texas, expect vaccines by around April 2021.