While state officials are still deciding how to prioritize the next round of Covid-19 vaccinations, a federal advisory committee has recommended that construction workers be among those “essential workers” to be next in line.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices announced last week its recommendations for the second and third tiers – groups 1B and 1C – to receive the vaccine, as millions of healthcare workers have already begun to receive initial doses.
Frontline essential workers and those over the age of 75 – an estimated 51 million people – are included in the second group (1B) recommended by the CDC. The third group (1C) consists of about 129 million people who are either 65-74 years old or are deemed essential, including construction workers.
But states are not required to follow the CDC committee’s guidelines. In Texas, state officials decided last week that the second group (1B) to receive the vaccine will be those at least 65 years old and people with chronic medical conditions who are at least 16 years old.
“The focus on people who are age 65 and older or who have comorbidities will protect the most vulnerable populations,” said Imelda Garcia, who chairs the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel and is an associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services at the Department of State and Health Services.
The state’s expert panel is still deciding who should receive the third round (1C) of vaccines in Texas. The panel’s 17 members were appointed by DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and include state elected officials, epidemiologists, emergency management professionals, and other medical experts. The panel makes its recommendations to Hellerstedt, who ultimately decides the policy.
The panel recommended that the first doses, which arrived in the state on Dec. 14, be given to frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff or long-term healthcare facilities – about 1.9 million people altogether. The first rounds of those doses were administered starting Dec. 21. State officials estimate that the second group (1B) eligible for the vaccine will begin to receive the first round of doses sometime in January.
The state expects to have received about 1.4 million doses by the end of the year, with more expected as additional vaccine producers are approved for distribution. Gov. Greg Abbott has predicted that the vaccine could be widely available across the state as early as March.
“What this vaccine will be able to achieve is in the short run it will treat the types of patients that will be most likely to need a hospital bed and most likely to lose their lives, Abbot said. “I think that you will see very significant results coming from that.”
Texas has seen more cases of the virus in December – more than 400,000 – than any other month since the pandemic began. The number of daily hospitalizations in the state – more than 11,000 in recent days – have also reached new highs this month, surpassing record numbers from July.