As Texans prepare for the Christmas holidays, the best gift isn’t under the tree but in dry ice-chilled boxes marked COVID-19 vaccine.
During a Thursday, Dec. 17, media conference at the UPS Distribution Center in Austin, Gov. Gregg Abbott said it’s possible a million Texans could be vaccinated by the end of December.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Texas received 224,000 doses this week, and more are on the way, the governor said.
Abbott said he expects a second vaccine, this one by Moderna, to soon receive FDA authorization, which would increase the number of vaccination doses available to states.
“That means we’ll be well on our way to having a million people vaccinated in Texas alone this month,” he said.
He believes there will be even more COVID-19 vaccines created by the spring.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,371,223 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and 24,660 deaths. Statewide hospitalizations for Wednesday totaled 9,528.
In Burnet County, total confirmed cases number 1,702 with 288 considered active and 20 deaths as of Thursday. Llano County has 394 total confirmed cases with 129 considered active and six deaths.
Under the state’s distribution plan, the first round of vaccinations will be given to frontline healthcare workers. But, by the end of December, Abbott said more than a million vaccines will be distributed to a variety of providers, including hospitals, health centers, clinics and other medical practices, pharmacies, free-standing emergency rooms, urgent care centers, long-term care facilities, local health departments, state hospitals, state-supported living centers, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities.
Abbott added that vaccination is voluntary but encouraged people to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them. He said he has not received a vaccination yet, preferring doses go to those on the front lines, but, at the appropriate time, he will.
“This is really a great day,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, during the media conference. “These vaccines are proven safe and effective.”
He added that no shortcuts were taken during the development process of either vaccine.
“This is a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel,” Hellerstedt said. “But we’re not at the end yet. We’re in a marathon.”
He added that it might feel like we’ve hit the proverbial wall marathoners talk about during the 26-mile race, but it’s not time to give up.
“We need that sign of hope. This vaccine is that hope,” Hellerstedt said. “We should all be hopeful, but we should be very patient.”
In the meantime, Abbott urged people to continue following COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, and washing hands frequently.
When asked if he was considering another statewide shutdown, Abbott was adamant.
“No,” he said, “we will not have any more shutdowns in Texas.”