Texas brings nursing home residents to front of vaccine line
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas health officials Friday moved nursing home residents to the front of the line for coronavirus vaccines after initially deciding that only health care workers would have access to the first round of doses that are expected to arrive this month.
The reversal comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued nonbiding guidance that called for putting nursing home residents first along with frontline medical staff. Advocacy groups have also pressed states to give nursing home residents first access to a vaccine, pointing to outbreaks that have spread through long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic.
The change was recommended by a state panel of health experts and lawmakers following the new guidance from the CDC, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said an initial round of 1.4 million vaccine doses is expected to arrive soon as Dec. 14. State health officials say the first allocation of more than 224,00 doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer will be shipped to 109 hospitals in 34 counties.
Early estimates from Texas health officials identified more than 1 million workers in frontline medical jobs. The vulnerable population in Texas includes more than 137,00 nursing home residents and nearly 4 million residents over the age of 65, according to a draft of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan released in October.
Texas has a statewide population of about 29 million.
Texas this week surpassed 9,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients for the first time since summer. Texas reported more than 13,000 confirmed cases Friday and 255 additional deaths. The virus is blamed for more than 22,200 deaths in Texas, which is the second-highest number of fatalities in the country.