Calling the Shots

H-E-B to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in Houston stores

H-E-B plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines once they're available. Photo courtesy of BCM

As a pair of COVID-19 vaccines await emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Texas' largest grocer is prepping for the vaccines' unprecedented rollout.

San Antonio-based H-E-B announced its pharmacies will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to Texans once it's available to the general public.

"At H-E-B, the health and safety of Texans is our top priority," the company noted in a release posted December 3. "As a trusted source for all routine childhood and adult immunizations, H-E-B pharmacies will partner with the federal and state government to administer the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to the general public, following the CDC distribution schedule."

Though it's unclear when H-E-B will receive the vaccine doses and which company's vaccine —Moderna, the Pfizer/BioNTech, or otherwise — will be available through the grocer, health-focused organizations and businesses like H-E-B are preparing for the massive distribution, which could begin as soon as 24 hours after the FDA gives its approval.

The goal of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's plan to help develop, make, and distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Americans, is "to deliver safe vaccines that work, with the first supply becoming available before the end of 2020," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also notes once a vaccine is approved and released, there may not be enough doses available for all U.S. adults, though supplies will increase over time and "all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021."

The CDC further states that vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer money will be distributed to Americans for free. However, vaccine providers can charge an administration fee for providing the shot.

It's unclear how many doses each store will receive and whether the company plans to distribute the vaccine through its pharmacy drive-thrus, at onsite pop-up medical tents, or solely from its in-store pharmacies.

"We do have all H-E-B pharmacies registered and ready to administer the vaccine," says Leslie Sweet, H-E-B's director of public affairs in the Central Texas region. "We will follow the prescribed allocation schedule as prescribed by [the Department of State Health Services]. We do not yet have a specific date or allocation number to share."

H-E-B pharmacies throughout the state already have some safety measures in place because of COVID-19 concerns, including allowing customers to prepay for prescriptions on the phone prior to picking them up or have their prescriptions delivered for free, and offering no-contact pickup and delivery of prescriptions through its pharmacy drive-thrus.

Additionally, H-E-B says it is continuing to take steps to protect its customers and employees during the pandemic.

"We're going above and beyond our already stringent sanitation standards, cleaning and disinfecting pharmacy counters, waiting areas, and drive-thru surfaces at a higher frequency," the grocer notes in its recent release. "Our pharmacy partners are practicing proper hand-washing throughout the day, and disinfecting and wiping down commonly used surfaces. We've also installed acrylic barriers and provided masks and gloves for all pharmacy partners. … As always, your health and safety is of the utmost importance to us. Together, we can slow the spread."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

The SBA announced plans to open 20 new centers to serve female entrepreneurs — and one is coming to the Houston area. Photo via Getty Images

The Houston area is benefitting from national funding that will be dedicated to creating female-focused resource centers across the country.

The United States Small Business Administration announced grant funding to launch 20 new Women's Business Centers (WBC) across the country. The centers, which are slated to go into rural and underserved markets, will also be partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

With the funds from the grant and through a partnership with the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce, the new center will rise in Northeast Houston to serve the Montgomery, East Harris and Chambers' Counties.

"We are incredibly excited that an organization as prominent as the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce is joining the SBA team," says Tim Jeffcoat, director if the SBA in Houston. "We are looking forward to working with them to empower women-owned businesses in Houston to reach new heights of success."

These new efforts represent the largest expansion of the WBC program in its 30-year existence.

"We are thrilled to partner with the SBA in opening another Women's Business Center, providing resources and tools for our region's women-led organizations to launch and expand," says Suzan Deison, CEO, president and founder of the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce. "We are honored the SBA chose to partner with us to expand needed services in Montgomery, East Harris & Chambers' counties, especially during these challenging times."

The SBA has 136 centers open across the country, and each offers business counseling, training, networking, workshops, and more to area female entrepreneurs.

"Opening the doors to the new Women's Business Centers is crucial to the vitality of women-owned small business owners. This network expansion will provide female entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start, grow, and expand their businesses," says Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development Allen Gutierrez. "We look forward to the continued success of the WBC program as it contributes to the overall health of our economy and creates jobs in their local communities."

According to the release, the timing of these new centers is especially important as entrepreneurs continue to be challenged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Over the past several months, we have seen Women's Business Centers provide aid to our nation's innovative and determined entrepreneurs, allowing countless small business owners to pivot with confidence to stay afloat during the pandemic," says SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. "Expanding the WBC program is part of this Administration's longstanding commitment to the success of female entrepreneurs and women-owned small businesses. Adding these new Women's Business Centers to the already existing network of centers across America will boost timely resources to our nation's female economic drivers, providing them with local training and counseling."

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