COVID-19 vaccines arrive at more North Texas hospitals, nursing homes to get access next week

More than 23,000 of the first COVID-19 vaccines have arrived at North Texas hospitals.

Parkland Hospital's frontline medical staff, those who take care of COVID-19 patients, were first to receive the shots. UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources in Fort Worth also received the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday.

Parkland received 5,800 doses of the new vaccine on Tuesday. The delivery is already boosting morale at the medical facility.

Charge nurse Perla Sanchez-Perez was the first Parkland employee to get the shot. She's worked in what Parkland calls the red box, the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, since day one. Getting the vaccine gives her peace of mind.

“To know that I have an extra tool makes me feel a bit more secure, to know that I can continue doing my job every day and to know that in the next few months we're going to start having immunity and be safer and to know that my chances of getting the disease are a lot less,” she said.

Parkland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang said the hospital will administer about 600 vaccines per day throughout the week. In total, 15,000 employees have been prioritized to receive the two shots 28 days apart.

“Such an exciting day. We are going to be in a whirlwind of events probably for the next couple of weeks,” Dr. Chang said. “I smile every time I talk about it because this is pure relief and joy that is coming and what a fabulous time for it to come with the holidays.”

Dr. Chang was also quick to point out that the arrival of the vaccine does not mean it’s the end of the pandemic. But he said it could perhaps be viewed as the beginning of the end.

Over at UT Southwestern, Jana Smith was the first employee there to get one of the hospital’s first vaccine doses.

“I have family members with underlying health conditions I haven’t gotten to see this year,” she said. “We didn’t do Thanksgiving. I miss hugging my dad.”

So far, more than 500 UT Southwestern employees have signed up to get the vaccine. UT Southwestern received more than 5,800 initial doses.

“I think for those of us who have been in the trenches since the beginning, I think this is an exciting day,” said Dr. James Cutrell with UT Southwestern Medical Center. “We’re starting to feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a way to go.”

Texas Health Resources also got more than 5,800 doses Tuesday.

“We’re now at a point where the game is changing in the fight against the pandemic,” said Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan.

The hospital system’s CEO says they plan to use their allotment over the next three days, dividing up the doses to go to 16 different campuses throughout the metroplex.

“Just because the vaccine is here in relatively small quantities doesn’t mean we let our guard down,” Berdan said. “In our hospitals, even after we get through vaccinating most of our employees over the coming weeks and months, we’ll still have everybody wear all the appropriate PPE.”

The vaccines administered are the first of two injections. Those vaccinated this week will return to get their second injection about three weeks from now.

North Texas and other areas across the country are still in the midst of a surge in people contracting COVID-19 and requiring hospitalization.

In Dr. Chang’s view, people will still need to take precautions against the virus until inoculations reach about 80% of the population.

Although nursing home residents are among the first in the country to get access to the vaccine, most won’t get their shots for at least a few more days.

A majority of long-term care facilities are participating in a federal program that uses pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens to administer the vaccines. That partnership is expected to launch on Monday. The CDC said more than 1,100 clinics nationwide will begin that day.


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