The state is now enrolling providers who want to help supply a COVID-19 vaccine in preparations for its potential availability.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is now allowing health care providers to register online so they can receive and administer a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.

Dr. Emilie Prot, with the Department of State Health Services, or DSHS, said the state is encouraging interested providers to begin the enrollment process as soon as possible to avoid delay once the immunization is available to the public.

“We want to make sure that we have providers that are enrolled,” said Prot, the regional medical director for Public Health Region 11, which covers South Texas. “There’s specific requirements before they actually get approved, and so this is the phase one of our vaccine program.”

To get the word out, Prot said the state would be communicating through media and create messaging around the vaccine and around the enrollment of providers so that they could get an accurate count.

“The feds are going to be working directly with some of the larger pharmacies, so Walgreens and CVS, to also become¬†vaccinators for a COVID-19 vaccine once it comes out,” Prot added. “Right now, the trials are still ongoing.”

At this point, the state is still in phase zero in the process of making the vaccine available to the public.

“Phase zero is our communications plan,” Prot said. “We’re building those private and public partnerships and we’re planning the logistics of statewide vaccination program.”

Phase one is when an expert panel will decide which groups will be prioritized to receive the vaccine.

“We want to make sure that it’s reaching the prioritized population,” she said.

Phase two will entail providing equitable access to vaccinations for all critical populations and then also vaccinate the general population.

Phase three will be providing targeted vaccine access in populations with low coverage and then demobilizing the COVID-19 vaccination program.

“We’re still in phase zero right now,” Prot reiterated. “What we do want people to understand is that we’re preparing everything and we want to make sure that we’re thinking about everything that could happen in order to best deliver this service to Texans in every county.”

The different vaccine candidates that are currently under study present different logistical challenges, according to Prot.

“Most of them need to be frozen so that’s something that we’re looking at with our partners on how many days after you take them out of the freezer are they good for,” she said, “and what is the storage and handling that is required.”

“All of this will take a lot of education for all of the providers that are going to be enrolled so that’s why we want to make sure that we enroll everyone early so we can help everyone be ready so that we minimize any waste of vaccine once it gets released,” Prot said.

Providers who want to enroll need to provide a National Provider Identifier, or NPI number which is a unique identification number for covered healthcare providers, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Prot added that providers must also be in good standing with Medicaid to be eligible.

More information and enrollment is available on the DSHS website: enrolltexasiz.dshs.texas.gov