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Texas to use VAERS, v-safe app to track side effects for early recipients of COVID-19 vaccine

VAERS is an online system where patients can report side effects and v-safe is an app that will provide personalized health check-ins via texts and surveys.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) provided a COVID-19 update, including the latest on the vaccine distribution process.

The DSHS reiterated that as of Monday, limited doses of the vaccine will be available this month, with the supply expected to increase substantially in 2021. Two doses, separated by approximately three weeks, will be needed for immunity for most COVID-19 vaccines.

On Dec. 4, the DSHS released a list of hospitals that have been approved to receive their first round of vaccines in week one. According to the list, Travis County hospitals will receive a total of 13,650 initial doses, Williamson County hospitals will receive 1,950 and one Hays County hospital will receive 975.

RELATED: US vaccine chief thinks COVID-19 shots will be long-lasting

To monitor vaccine safety and recipients' side effects, the DSHS will be employing both the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and an app called v-safe.

According to its website, VAERS is a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines. The system is co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

VAERS accepts and analyzes reports of "adverse events" or possible side effects, and anyone can report an adverse event to VAERS. Health care professionals are required to report certain adverse events and vaccine manufacturers are required to report all adverse events that come to their attention.

In addition to encouraging patients to use VAERS, the DSHS will have vaccine providers give patients a v-safe information sheet at the time of their vaccination and encourage them to enroll and fill out v-safe's surveys when prompted.

V-safe is a smartphone app that uses texts and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after a person has received a COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccine recipients will be able to use v-safe to tell the CDC if they have any side effects, at which point the CDC may follow up with them by phone to get more information. V-safe will also remind vaccine recipients to get their second vaccine dose if needed.

RELATED: Austin COVID-19: How many vaccines are coming in the first wave?

According to the DSHS, during the first week after a person gets their vaccine, v-safe will send them a text message each day to ask how they are doing. Then, they will get check-in messages once a week for up to five weeks. V-safe's questions should take less than five minutes to answer, according to the DSHS.

If a recipient needs a second dose of vaccine, v-safe will provide a new six-week check-in process so the recipient can also share their second-dose experience. Recipients will also receive check-ins three, six and 12 months after their final vaccine dose.

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