El Paso working on COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans

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Health care workers and high-risk population likely to get the first doses once vaccine is available at end of year

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – One of the Texas cities being hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic is making plans to inoculate its most vulnerable citizens as soon as a vaccine is available.

Mayor Dee Margo on Thursday said El Paso will have seven sites to store the Pfizer vaccine that’s anticipated to be ready by the end of the year.

The city has already signed up 139 local providers to distribute the vaccine, with healthcare workers and high-risk populations probably being first in line, said Public Health Director Angela Mora.

“We’ve been working very diligently preparing for vaccine distribution. We’re meeting with Pfizer once a week. They’re working with us as well to determine the capacity, when and how many vaccines are coming to El Paso,” Mora said.

She said most hospitals and public health providers, as well some private doctors and pharmacies have signed up.

The public health department will get ready to step in to fill gaps in areas lacking providers. “We’re mapping by deprivation area — the areas in highest need of health care providers. Public Health is going to fill the gap and serve as a safety net for those communities,” Mora said.

A map from the Public Health Department shows some of those areas are in South El Paso, the Lower Valley and in the Northeast.

Mora added more providers are being sought to take part in the distribution effort. “The more providers we have dispensing the vaccine once we get it […] we should have a very large capacity,” she said.

Health officials still don’t know how many vaccines they’ll be able to administer once they have them. Mora estimated a single provider will be able to vaccinate six individuals per hour — 48 in an eight-hour shift.

But Margo stressed that the bulk of the vaccines El Paso needs probably won’t be distributed until next summer. So he urged residents to continue to observe prevention measures, especially now that the holiday and shopping season approaches.

City-County Health Authority Hector Ocaranza echoed the advice.

“It is prudent to say we still have a dire situation in El Paso. Quite a bit of our loved ones are still testing positive for COVID-19 and ending up in the hospital. Many of them need a higher level of care because they have pre-existing conditions they have been unable to take care of,” Ocaranza said.

He counseled against large family gatherings on Thanksgiving and for disciplined use of face masks, frequent handwashing and social distancing.

“We need to be extra vigilant, extra careful of how we take care of our loved ones, how we take care of ourselves and how we are going to be staying healthy these holidays and for many years to come,” he said.

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