The University of Texas will distribute up to 3,000 of Austin's first COVID-19 vaccine doses

Photo of UT Tower
The University of Texas will serve as a distribution center for COVID-19 vaccines as they become available. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The University of Texas will serve as a distribution center for COVID-19 vaccines as they become available. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The University of Texas is set to be a distribution site for COVID-19 vaccines, and it will receive nearly 3,000 doses of the vaccine, according to campus officials. At a Dec. 8 news conference, leaders from UT and Dell Medical School said those doses would go to health care workers, including campus health providers, in accordance with state regulations.

"At this point, we'll be starting out working with our health care providers," said Dr. Amy Young, a vice dean of Dell Medical School and chief clinical officer for UT Health Austin. "Because we have a nursing school that has outpatient clinics and UT Health Austin has outpatient clinics, we contemplate when we get to some of those later stages of vaccine administration that we would be offering and administering vaccines to the Greater Austin community."

According to Terrance Hines, chief medical officer for University Health Services at UT, vaccination will be voluntary for people on campus—even for high-priority health care workers, although it is strongly recommended that they take the vaccine.

"I think it's just important to highlight the vaccine is really only one step, one layer, in the ways that we hope to protect our campus. It's also a new vaccine, and we're continuing to learn about that, so we're also respectful that this is a personal choice for a lot of folks who take it very seriously," Hines said.

Vaccines are expected to come to UT from Pfizer. Pfizer's vaccine, which is in line to be considered this week for emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, has to be kept in ultra-cold storage, frozen at minus 80 degrees. UT officials said the university has identified several locations around campus where ultra-cold storage is available.

"We're really excited about this opportunity to take the next step in protecting our UT Austin community. We have faith in the vaccine and the science behind it, in its safety and its effectiveness," Hines said. "I'm looking forward to getting the vaccine myself, as well as working together to help protect our UT Austin and surrounding communities."

On Dec. 4, Austin Public Health announced that hospitals in the Austin area are set to receive 13,650 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will go to front-line health care workers in Hays, Travis and Williamson counties. Previously, Gov. Greg Abbott's office announced Texas is set to receive 1.4 million doses of the vaccine.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.