Your questions answered: COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Texas

Answers to your FAQs including who’s getting the vaccine now and rollout across state

Texas Medical Center officials discuss coronavirus vaccine distributions in Houston area
Texas Medical Center officials discuss coronavirus vaccine distributions in Houston area

The rollout for the COVID-19 vaccine is underway across Texas.

The state is receiving the two FDA-approved vaccines, by Pfizer and Moderna, and distributing thousands of doses to hospitals, pharmacies, local health departments, freestanding ERs and other clinics across the state.

Texas is still in its limited supply phase of the rollout and vast chunks of people who are eligible have not yet been able to secure an appointment.

The vaccines have mostly been available to first responders and frontline workers, but there have been some Texans in the second, much larger phase of the rollout that have received the first dose.

There’s also been confusion about who is eligible, how many doses the state has administered, the overall supply and where to sign up for the vaccine.

Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Texas, Bexar County and San Antonio. Have more questions? Let us know in the prompt below.

Who’s getting the vaccine now?

Front-line healthcare workers or residents of long-term care facilities are now eligible to receive the vaccine and have been eligible since Dec. 14. This group was part of Phase 1A in Texas.

People in Phase 1B are now also eligible to get the vaccine depending on availability and the provider. More vaccines will be delivered to providers each week. Phase 1B recipients include:

People 65 years of age and older. People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
  • Solid organ transplantation
  • Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

How do I sign up for the vaccine?

State health officials are allocating vaccines to every region across Texas, but the state is not responsible for administering vaccines.

While San Antonio facilities have administered nearly 35,000 vaccines to date, many providers in the area say they’re waiting on more shipments from the state and federal government before they’re able to inoculate more people, mostly in Phase 1B.

In some cases, doses that have not yet been used or received by the provider are already scheduled to be delivered to a person in Phase 1A.

In an effort to make sure vaccines do not go to waste, University Health System is allowing people in the first two phases to try and schedule an appointment.

Pharmacies such as H-E-B and CVS are asking people to go online or download their apps to get notified when they might be able to make an appointment.

People in Phase 1A or 1B can also visit the Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Locations map to see if and where you might be able to get a vaccine today.

Remember, your ability to get a vaccine today or this week will depend on availability at your provider’s office, clinic or facility. You are advised to call ahead to your provider.

State officials and Gov. Greg Abbott have continually said most of the population is expected to receive the vaccine this spring.

What are the differences between the vaccines?

The two vaccines are mostly similar, but there are some differences. Both require ultra-cold storage and are administered in two doses, according to the CDC.

The key difference is patients who take the Pfizer vaccine will be given a second dose 21 days later, while the Moderna vaccine will be given 28 days apart.

The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for people aged 16 years and older, while the Moderna vaccine is recommended for people aged 18 years and older.

The Pfizer vaccine is in vials that hold five doses of the vaccine, whereas the Moderna vaccine is in 10-dose vials. This could affect how many doses can be stored and transported.

Neither vaccine contains eggs, preservatives or latex.

According to San Antonio Metro Health patients must take the same vaccine for both doses.

Health care providers are tasked with keeping track of what vaccine a patient gets and when they receive it.

That information is being inputted into a state registry called an Immunization Information System.

This system gives patients the flexibility to receive their doses at different health care providers as long as it’s in the same state.

Are there any side effects and where can I report possible reactions?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines completed phase 3 clinical trials, which involves studies in humans.

For the COVID-19 vaccines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set up rigorous standards for vaccine developers to meet.

According to the CDC, you still might have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects should go away in a few days.

Side effects reported include soreness at the injection site, fever, chills, headache or muscle and joint pain. This is similar to reactions some people have to other vaccines, including influenza and shingles.

Once you get the vaccine, the CDC has created a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to report any side effects after getting the vaccine.

You can register for your automated health check-ins at https://vsafe.cdc.gov.

If you experience serious side effects, call your doctor right away. It’s possible you could have been infected with COVID-19 before you received the vaccine.

If you believe you are having a severe allergic reaction, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

What’s in the vaccine?

The vaccines both focus on mRNA, or messenger RNA, which is found in your body.

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases, however, researchers have been studying and working with them for decades.

It does not inject the live virus into your body, according to local infectious disease expert Dr. Ruth Berggren, with UT Health San Antonio.

“So think of it like this: The mRNA, the messenger, is going to find these 3D printers in your cells. And the mRNA has the code, and it goes and tells the 3D printer what kind of protein it wants it to make. And in this case, the mRNA is telling your 3D printer to make a protein that looks exactly like that spiky thing on the outside of the COVID virus,” said Berggren. “So now you have pieces of your own cell teaching other cells how to fight an enemy that looks like that.”

Berggren also said injecting your body with mRNA does not in any way affect your DNA.

“The mRNA that’s being injected doesn’t hang around. It goes in, tells the 3D printing machinery what to do and it gets out. Your own cell is going to act like Pacman, destroy the mRNA, but only after it’s delivered its message,” she said.

WATCH KSAT EXPLAINS BELOW: What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

Where have doses been going in Bexar County?

The state is currently in the fourth week of its allocation plan. Initially, the state was shipping doses only to metropolitan areas, but has since expanded to include rural areas, smaller hospitals, pharmacies and doctors offices.

The Moderna vaccine ships in multiples of 100 while Pfizer in multiples of 975. Some providers may receive a combination. Below is the Week 4 allocation for the state including San Antonio and surrounding area locations.

Who can distribute the vaccine?

Any facility, organization, or healthcare provider licensed to possess or administer vaccines or provide vaccination services is eligible to become a COVID-19 vaccinator.

Health care providers must enroll with the state as a COVID-19 vaccine provider to be eligible to receive the vaccine. The link to register is here.

Providers include medical practices, pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, health centers, health departments, correctional facilities, and others.

Thousands of providers in more than 225 Texas counties have enrolled with the state health department. National pharmacy chains have also enrolled directly with the federal government.

Pharmacies across the U.S. like CVS and Walgreens will be able to distribute free coronavirus vaccines when the supply becomes widely available to the public. H-E-B announced it will also participate in a federal program for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

How much does it cost?

Moderna and Pfizer have struck a deal with the federal government to fund and provide 100 million doses each.

According to the CDC, vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.

However, vaccine providers will be able to charge fees for administering the shot to someone.

Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Read more reporting from KSAT on vaccines below:

Seniors may be eligible for vaccination, but it doesn’t mean doses are available in Bexar County

Texas health official explains issues that may distort how many vaccine doses are actually available

View that offer to buy early access to COVID-19 vaccine with big dose of skepticism

CHRISTUS Health asks public to practice patience as health care workers distribute COVID-19 vaccine


About the Author:

RJ Marquez has been at KSAT since 2010. He's covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area, and is the lead reporter for KSAT Explains. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms. You can see RJ regularly on KSAT Explains and Good Morning San Antonio. He also writes a weekly Spurs newsletter.