Once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, what will that look like locally? Metro Health discusses plan

In its effort to educate and inform Bexar County residents about vaccine developments, Metro Health created a COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Committee.

SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District wants to keep people informed when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is not yet available.

In its effort to educate and inform Bexar County residents about vaccine developments, Metro Health even created a COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Committee.

More than 60 organizations -- including health care providers, pharmacies, the faith-based community and other neighborhood partners -- are involved in the committee.

The group aims to stress the importance of getting vaccinated once that’s a public option.

“As we continue to move forward in this pandemic, working together is key to our success in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of communicable diseases. “Metro Health is committed to keeping the community informed and having a fair, ethical and transparent approach for the new vaccine distribution plan rollout.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shared its COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook, which provides guidance for health departments. Metro Health’s current plan can be found on the COVID-19 Portal.

The goal is to have enough COVID-19 vaccine for everyone interested.

Early in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program, there will be a limited supply of the vaccine, health officials said, adding that supply will increase into 2021.

Because of this, Metro Health’s local vaccination efforts will focus on Critical Population Groups (CPG) as defined by the CDC.

CPGs include individuals who are critical to the COVID-19 pandemic response, provide direct care, people living in group settings, and those who are at high risk for severe illness.

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for distribution, Metro Health will follow CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services’ recommendations on vaccine allocation and priorities and will update the local plan accordingly, as needed.

Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo said the COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Committee would have some say in how people are prioritized within the “critical infrastructure” category of the rollout plan.

“I think the idea is to help establish a matrix and that matrix is really only going to be needed when there’s scarcity,” Woo said.

It will likely take months to complete a full rollout of the election, and getting to the point where enough of the community has been vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity” could take some time.

“We’re going to know more over time, but one guess is 70 to 80 percent. And right now, that is larger than the percentage of people in surveys who say they’re willing to be vaccinated,” Woo said.

While Woo said she was referring to national surveys she had seen, the most recent KSAT-San Antonio Report-Bexar Facts poll showed a similar trend. Only 63 percent of respondents said they would be likely to get the vaccine, and even fewer - 50 percent - said there were likely to get it if it becomes available this year.

To keep the community informed about the changing situation, Metro Health and community partners will host virtual town halls to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Upcoming events will be listed on the Metro Health website.

For more information, visit the COVID-19 portal .

Have questions? Let us know in the prompt below and join KSAT.com on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. for a livestream special on vaccines.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.