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Burnet County receiving doses after second COVID-19 vaccine approved

Food and Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for a second COVID-19 vaccine, which means more doses are headed to Texas this week, including about 1,100 to Burnet County, for frontline healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents and staff.

Another wave of COVID-19 vaccines is headed to Texas, this time including Burnet County, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18 authorized Moderna’s vaccine for emergency use. The approval comes about a week after the FDA did the same for the Pfizer vaccine.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending 620,400 doses of both vaccines to the state in a second week of distribution: 460,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 159,900 of the Pfizer version.

The DSHS is allocating 1,100 doses of the Moderna vaccine to Burnet County facilities, including Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls, Ascension Seton Highland Lakes in Burnet, Atkins Pharmacy in Marble Falls, and H-E-B pharmacies in Marble Falls and Burnet.

Kevin Atkins of Atkins Pharmacy confirmed his business is on the state’s list to receive the Moderna vaccine for frontline healthcare workers.

The vaccines come at a time when much of Texas is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and health officials fear a bigger jump after Christmas due to gatherings and travel.

As of Dec. 21, the DSHS reported 1,413,684 total confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state and 25,415 deaths. Burnet County has 1,739 total confirmed cases and 23 deaths, while Llano County has 417 cases and six deaths, according to DSHS numbers. 

“Like elsewhere in the state and across the country, cases of COVID-19 are rising across the Texas Hill Country, including Burnet and Llano counties. It’s a concerning trend, especially since it comes amid the holiday season when many healthcare facilities are also busy caring for patients with other illnesses that are more prevalent this time of year,” said a joint statement from doctors Ghassan Salman and Scott Knepper. 

Salman is the associate chief medical officer of Baylor Scott & White-Hill Country Region, and Knepper is the medical director for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Baylor Scott & White Health officials noted that the vast majority of the patients at their facilities do not have COVID-19, though the system has experienced a “marked increase” in the number of patients admitted to their hospitals for COVID-19 care. 

Officials pointed out that Baylor Scott & White medical centers have sufficient capacity to care for COVID-19 and other patients as well as continue elective surgeries and procedures.

Salman and Knepper said they see hope in the fight against the virus.

“… There is finally a silver lining with the introduction of a vaccine that appears to be highly effective,” according to their statement. “Although it will not bring an immediate end to the pandemic — and it will likely still be months before it is widely available to the general public — it is an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19.”

Even with two vaccines available and more possibly coming next year, the two doctors said the best way to protect yourself and slow the spread of the coronavirus is to wear a face covering, maintain social distancing, and frequently wash your hands. And both encouraged people to follow the CDC’s recommendations on limiting gatherings to your own household during the holidays. 

During the week of Dec. 14, Texas received 224,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to begin vaccinating healthcare workers. About 124,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine received the week of Dec. 21 will be used in the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care, a program to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff.

Gov. Greg Abbott and state officials and health experts had determined the vaccines will be given in a phased approach, with those on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 at the top of the list, or Phase 1A.

With approximately 1.9 million Texans in the Phase 1A category, those vaccinations are still underway.

On Monday, Dec. 21, the state announced people 65 years and older will be in Phase 1B vaccinations. Also in this phase are those 16 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
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
  • solid organ transplantation 
  • obesity/severe obesity
  • pregnancy 
  • sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus 

“The focus on people who are age 65 and older or who have comorbidities will protect the most vulnerable population,” said Imelda Garcia, chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel and DSHS associate for the Division for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services. “This approach ensures that Texans at the most severe risk from COVID-19 can be protected across races and ethnicities and regardless of where they work.”

Officials believe it will be a few weeks before vaccinations of people in Phase 1B.

While most of the attention is on COVID-19, Knepper and Salman caution people not to overlook other health issues, especially during cold and flu season. They noted it’s the time of year for “heightened incidence” of certain other conditions such as heart attack and stroke.

“It’s important not to delay care, especially in the event of a medical emergency,” according to their joint statement. 

If you do suspect you have COVID-19, Salman and Knepper said it’s important to isolate yourself and immediately contact your healthcare provider. If you don’t have one, you can visit Baylor Scott & White Health’s website to take a free screening and be connected with a healthcare provider.

“Although there is no cure for COVID-19, there are treatments now available that can reduce some patients’ risk of getting a severe case of the disease if addressed early enough,” they stated.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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