Gov. Abbott says Texas will be ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccine once it's approved

The pandemic has already caused nearly 18,800 deaths in Texas and cases have topped 960,000 in the state.

AUSTIN — Texas will be ready to rapidly distribute vaccines and other treatments for COVID-19 as soon as federal authorities give the go-ahead for their use, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday.

"Swift distribution of vaccines and medical treatments will begin to heal those suffering from COVID-19, slow the spread of the virus, and aid in reducing hospitalizations of Texans," Abbott in a news release. "As we anticipate the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, the state of Texas is prepared to quickly distribute those medicines to Texans who voluntarily choose to use them."

Austin Regional Clinic's Clinical Research Division is enrolling 250 people in a Pfizer vaccine trial for the coronavirus.

Abbott's statement comes one day after the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that it has developed a vaccine it says has shown 90% effectiveness in preventing coronavirus. The company is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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In his news release, the governor noted that the FDA on Monday authorized the immediate use of the first treatment for people who contract COVID-19. The drug by Eli Lilly & Co. is called bamlanivimab and is shown to help relieve symptoms of people with the virus.

Abbott said Texas will be among the places across the nation in line for part of the 80,000 doses Lilly plans to ship. One million doses are expected to be ready by year's end.

A vaccine-distribution plan has already been prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Abbott said. The state agency is working with local health providers to determine the priority for who will be first in line to receive the vaccine.

To date, Texas has reported more than 960,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic was declared. Nearly 18,800 people in Texas have died as the caseload has begun to pick up steam once more and threatens to overwhelm hospitals and other medical facilities in certain sections of the state.

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at jmoritz@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.