How the winter storms robbed Texas of a week of vaccine distribution
Shipment delays and vaccination site closures triggered by the catastrophic winter storm have essentially robbed Texas of an entire week in the race to protect Americans against Covid-19, even as widespread power outages, water shortages and lack of food cause yet another humanitarian crisis in the state.
“Everything was put on ice — literally — this week,” said Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations at the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Shipping hubs also affected by the winter weather generally didn’t risk transporting most of the precious vaccine doses for jabs in Texas amid the storm. Exceptions included 125,000 Moderna vaccines that arrived at hub providers last Friday and a handful of Pfizer doses that were supposed to make it by Wednesday, though some sites hadn’t received them on time, Van Deusen said.
But “even if it takes a day or two to get them delivered as conditions improve, it’s not gonna put the vaccine in jeopardy,” he added.
If vaccine providers have doses that are going to spoil and can’t be stored safely, they’re up for grabs to anyone who’s willing to take them, regardless of whether that person meets Texas’ current eligibility criteria prioritizing healthcare workers, long-term care residents, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.
But other than a storage facility in Houston’s Harris county, where power went out, a backup generator failed, and thousands of doses were quickly redistributed to a university, the county jail, and local hospitals, Van Deusen hasn’t heard of too many desperate scrambles to reallocate shots before they expire.
Both vaccines — and especially Moderna’s — have enough of a shelf life to weather the storm if they’re able to be stored correctly.
“We haven’t fortunately gotten a whole lot of reports, at least to this point, of vaccine being spoiled,” Van Deusen said. “But, you know, people may just now be getting back into places, or over the next few days.”
Icy, slick roads have caused treacherous driving conditions across Texas, making it incredibly dangerous for people to grab much-needed groceries or get to hotels and warming centers, much less attend their clinical appointments. Likewise, as the natural disaster and subsequent failure of basic infrastructure have wreaked havoc on the state, vaccination sites have shuttered for days.
Around 10.6% of Texans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 4.3% have received both doses, according to the New York Times, lagging behind the nation at large.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2.2 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and roughly 340,000 probable cases have ravaged the state, killing almost 41,000 residents so far.