EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–With another shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine headed to El Paso, health experts and City officials say this opens up accessibility for more widespread vaccines sooner.
After the Moderna coronavirus vaccine was approved by the FDA last week, the Texas Deparment of State Health Services announced the vaccine allocation for counties in the state.
Between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, about 25 different providers are expecting vaccines for a total of about 14,400 doses.
More Moderna vaccines are headed to El Paso than Pfizer as of now, some health experts say it can be because the Moderna is more convenient and easier to store.
“This vaccine is going to be easier in the way it is handled and stored than the Pfizer vaccine,” Dr. Armando Meza, Chief of Infectious Diseases, TTUHSC El Paso, said.
As we’ve reported, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at extreme cold temperatures in an ultra-cold freezer or else it will spoil and be useless. Dr. Meza said Moderna’s vaccine can just be stored in a regular refrigerator that most clinics and providers already have for other vaccines.
“Once it’s put in the fridge it can be stable for one month so you can actually dose it and schedule your patients without any particular urgency,” Dr. Meza said.
Providers who received the first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine were mostly area hospitals in both El Paso and Las Cruces. Dr. Meza said hospitals and the healthcare workers at the hospitals are the ones who will most likely receive a Pfizer vaccine because they have the means to store it. The Moderna vaccine is going to other clinics and the Department of Public Health.
“Most of us were able to access it through the hospitals but it will expand the criteria, the 1c, 1b, 1a [phases] will allow more choices so were very excited this vaccine will be coming soon,” Dr. Meza said.
Dr. Meza said there aren’t any major differences in the two brands of vaccines and side effects shouldn’t be any different. However, he said if someone already received the Pfizer vaccine for the initial dose, they should follow up with the same brand for the second dose at the 21-day mark.
The City of El Paso will receive 3,000 vaccinations this week as part of the Phase 1 distribution for first responders and medical personnel.
“The El Paso Fire Department and Department of Public Health is expecting a shipment of vaccinations to arrive this week. This first shipment from Moderna contains 900 doses for firefighters and 2,100 for healthcare workers,” said El Paso Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino. “These doses will be distributed among our members, prioritizing those in the frontlines in constant contact with our community. This includes personnel at the fire stations and testing sites.”
At a news conference last week, Angela Mora, the director of the El Paso Public Health Department, said more vaccines approved will lay the groundwork for more groups of people to soon start being approved to receive the vaccine.
The Department of Health is one of the providers awaiting Moderna vaccines. Mora said they were prepping for its arrival and administering the vaccines with seven sites people can get the vaccine free of charge.
“We’re going to have seven locations, five will by drive-thru, two walk-in, the two COVID-19 testing sites will also provide the vaccine by appointment,” Mora said.
Mora added that with increased vaccine production, the State would most likely adjust those groups considered high-priority and allow more people to get the vaccine, allowing El Paso to get one step closer to herd immunity.