Vaccine discussion

Staff photo by Albert Villegas

Steve Johnson, who is the coordinator with the City of Wharton’s Office of Emergency Management, speaks during a Wharton City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 14. Face coverings are not mandatory during meetings among city staff and elected officials.


An official with the City of Wharton’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) weighed which COVID-19 vaccine would be better for residents based on its availability and shelf life.

Following a recent conference call with the Governor’s Office, OEM Coordinator Steve Johnson told Wharton elected officials during a regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 14 that Texas was expected to receive 225,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by this week, and the same amount in future weeks.

Texas should have 1.4 million doses of this vaccine by the end of the year, Johnson said.

Wharton County is expected to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, once approved, between Dec. 23-28.

Johnson said he expects that Wharton County will not receive any vaccines for any group after the Moderna vaccine comes out and that reason is because the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored in “ultra-low temperatures.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pfizer is shipping its vaccines in special containers packed in dry ice to keep them at a minus-70 degrees Celsius. This is a requirement. There are hospitals that can house this kind of common refrigeration, but it is not available in Wharton County, Johnson said. Moderna, however, has a longer shelf life for its vaccine at refrigerated temps. It remains stable between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the CDC. 

Johnson said for this reason, Wharton County would have “better use of the Moderna vaccine than Pfizer.”

Johnson said following another conference call with several health officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), a vaccine would be distributed in phases.

“The first phase will be frontline workers including medical personnel, as well as nursing home residents,” Johnson said. “First responders are included in that group.”

He said DSHS will have a team should an area in any part of the state be challenged in being provided doses of a vaccine or have storage problems.

Johnson also said there have been several “health providers” who have applied to have the vaccine delivered to them for patients. They include the El Campo and Wharton H-E-Bs, Alexander Pharmacy in East Bernard, Gulf Coast Family Medicine (Dr. Mark Marconi) in Wharton, and Garden Villa Nursing Home in El Campo.

“There are other providers who have applied, and have not as of this time, received a provider designation,” Johnson said. 


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