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Moderna vaccine is life-line to rural Texas healthcare providers

HOUSTON – Officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services anticipate receiving 460,000 vials of the Moderna vaccine next week and plan to use this vaccine to cover rural areas and smaller healthcare providers.

“They are absolutely at the end of their rope in most regions of Texas,” said John Henderson, president and CEO of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals. “Most of rural Texas is at capacity and can’t expand, and it’s not as much about space as it is staff and equipment. They just don’t have that capacity.”

Henderson agrees the Moderna vaccine is a perfect fit for rural Texas. This vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures like the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine can survive in refrigerated settings for up to 30 days. Plus, the Moderna vaccine can be shipped in smaller quantities.

“It’s in packets of 100, instead of 975 with the Pfizer vaccine,” Henderson said.

Texas health officials reported the more than 224,000 vials of Pfizer vaccine were received this week have been delivered to 110 hospitals in 34-counties.

The state hopes more than 1,000 healthcare providers will get the vaccine next week between both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. A key FDA panel recommended the Moderna vaccine be granted emergency authorization use Thursday. The full FDA will make a decision by the weekend as to whether it will allow the Moderna vaccine to be used.

Gov. Greg Abbott said the state remains on track to vaccinate more than 1 million healthcare workers by the end of December.

“Texas has a distribution system in place to make sure we’re stepping up and doing everything we can to save lives,” Abbott said.

Henderson said those shipments can’t come fast enough to rural Texas where the loss of even one healthcare worker can be devastating.

“If you lose a rural ER physician or a couple of nurses or a respiratory therapist to COVID or quarantine, you’re in a staffing crisis,” Henderson said.

State health officials said some of the Pfizer vaccines coming to Texas next week will be held back as part of a federal program to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff.

That plan involves a partnership with Walgreen’s and CVS to vaccinate these individuals. Texas expects to begin vaccinating nursing home residents and staff the week after Christmas.