Rural hospitals wait for their chance at COVID-19 vaccine

Week 1 allocations went largely to metro areas, facilities with plans to vaccinate hundreds

HONDO, Texas – This week, 110 Texas hospitals have received or will receive a much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, while many others await word on when theirs will arrive.

The state focused on facilities that indicated they would vaccinate at least 975 health care workers, which is the minimum order of doses for the Pfizer vaccine. This meant that metro areas like San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth took the lion’s share of the first 224,250 doses.

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The allocations for week two haven’t been announced yet, so it’s unclear who will get the vaccine next, leaving hospitals like Medina Regional Hospital in Hondo waiting eagerly.

“I think we’re getting kind of daily updates from (the) state, and hopefully we’ll receive final notice of our receipt date in the next week,” said Billie Bell, the chief nursing officer for the Medina Healthcare System.

The board president of the Texas Rural Health Association said that, from what he has heard, rural hospitals are essentially standing by.

“It’s just kind of like day by day -- ‘Let’s check,’” he said, recounting a conversation with one hospital administrator. “But they’re ready. And believe me, they need it.”

The Pfizer vaccine may not be the only option for long. The state expects the Moderna vaccine could get an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine ships in batches of 100 instead of 975. That’s a much more manageable amount for Medina Healthcare System and its roughly 250 employees, about 70% of which, Bell said, would fit into the first tier priority category.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of anticipation.

“Most health care workers are very ready to have access to a vaccine that, you know -- from a disease that’s really ravaged the health care system over the last year. So it creates some anticipation and anxiety of ‘When will we get it? When will it be our turn?’” Bell said.

Not everyone is waiting for their shipment. Both Resolute Health Hospital and CHRISTUS Santa Rosa in Comal County, where there were no vaccine doses allocated, indicated their staff would be vaccinated through sister hospitals in San Antonio that received doses.

A statement from the Baptist Health System, of which Resolute Health is a part, said the New Braunfels hospital eventually expects to receive doses, too. A spokeswoman for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa, though, would not comment on whether its New Braunfels location would eventually receive vaccine doses.

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About the Author

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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