Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he expected the first shipment of Pfizer’s touted COVID-19 vaccine to come by the end of November, but that doesn’t mean the public will have to access to it before the end of the year.
In a tweet, Abbott said Texas stands ready to distribute the vaccine “immediately,” along with two experimental antibody treatments that have recently received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“(COVID-19) cures are coming,” Abbott tweeted.
But more work must be done before the vaccine is ready to go.
Pfizer said the vaccine is 90% effective, but stressed that percentage can change. The figure came from an interim analysis conducted by an independent data monitoring board. The study is still continuing, and Pfizer has warned that the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 cases are added to the calculations.
In addition to the need for more clear and extensive results, this vaccine faces another obstacle in its distribution process.
The vaccine utilizes new technology where the doses are made with a piece of genetic code rather than with the novel coronavirus itself. Because of that, the doses need to be stored in extremely cold temperatures. Currently, it needs to be kept at negative 94 degrees Farenheit, according to Reuters.
“The cold chain is going to be one of the most challenging aspects of delivery of this vaccination,” Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Reuters.
Some hospitals around the country do not have that storage capability.
Part of Texas' COVID-19 vaccination plans includes performing checks to make sure providers can store the vaccines at those temperatures before receiving the vaccine.
Lastly, when the vaccine is ready for distribution, it will go to the people who are most vulnerable first.
The Texas Department of State Health Services detailed the procedure in its plan.
“In the initial phase, the allocation of doses must focus on vaccination providers and settings for vaccination of limited priority populations,” according to the guidance.
Those groups include frontline and essential workers, long-term care residents and people 65 and older and people with serious underlying medical conditions.
Federal health officials have announced an agreement with national drug store chains, but experts say it won’t be available to most people until the spring of 2021.
While the vaccine is promising news, experts recommend maintaining social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask until most people get vaccinated.