Vaccinations begin as first doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in North Texas

Methodist Dallas Medical Center is the first North Texas hospital to give the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine to its frontline health care workers.

A UPS truck delivered more than 5,800 initial doses to the hospital in North Oak Cliff Monday morning, with more coming over the next few weeks for the entire Methodist system.

“It’s very exciting. Unbelievably exciting to watch that truck back up and watch them upload this life-saving vaccine. That’s gonna help so many people it’s just unbelievable,” said Jim Scoggin, Methodist CEO.

Teresa Mata, 51, was the first to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Dallas. She is a mother of four who cleans emergency rooms at Methodist Hospital.

“I feel good,” Mata said afterward. “I want to take the risk because I’ve been here for 13 years, I love my job, but I want to protect other persons and I want to protect my family and I want to protect myself.”

The first round of vaccines started 30 to 40 minutes after the shipment arrived.

“It’s an emotional and exciting day. We've been dealing with this since March, taking care of the sickest patients in the Methodist facility here in Dallas and to give hope to other patients that this is the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Dr. Zachary Dreyfuss, Methodist ICU physician.

“2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for the entire world and you know 2021 needs to be better and this vaccine is gonna help that,” said Pam Stoyanoff, President/COO Methodist Hospital System.

COVID-19 unit nurse Vanessa Mongare hopes people of color follow her in taking vaccine protection.

“Just talking to people letting them know that we can be a part of this to end it and so they can see me and know that I’m okay and that they can get the vaccine as well,” Mongare said.

Paul Pieroni, the UPS driver who made the delivery, said it was a very humbling and special assignment for him. He lost a relative to COVID-19 just a few weeks ago.

“This is life. We’re delivering life-saving medication,” Pieroni said. “When I got the call to this that was really my first thought was all the lives that have been lost. It’s touched us all.”

The vaccine is shipped frozen and has to be thawed for about a half an hour before it’s placed in syringes.

Methodist planned to vaccinate 120 physicians and staff members who work directly with COVID-19 patients by the end of Monday.

Three other Texas hospitals are expected to receive shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday – in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, along with Texas Health Resources Pharmacy in Fort Worth are expected to receive their doses Tuesday.

By the end of the week, more than 224,000 doses of the vaccine will be divided among the more than 100 hospitals across the state. About 50,000 are allocated for hospitals in the North Texas region.

Each hospital in the area has plans for storage and rollout of shots for employees. Hospital workers are broken into groups of priority, meaning those greatest at-risk will be first in line.

“We know this is the beginning of the end. This is not the end,” said Parkland Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang.

Parkland will receive a little more than 5,00 doses Tuesday.

Dr. Chang will be one of the first at Parkland to get vaccinated on Tuesday. He says the hospital will do about 600 vaccinations a day this week.

“We would expect that we will get through our first three groups in three weeks, and we anticipate that will be all of our frontline workers both in the hospital and in our clinics,” he said.

Baylor Scott & White expects their shipment to come Wednesday and start vaccinations sometime Thursday.

“It’s a very exciting time, and by weeks’ end, there will be a great many number of healthcare practitioners who will receive their first vaccine,” said Dr. Mark Casanova, who works at Baylor Scott & White.

But Dr. Casanova said all who want the vaccine won’t be injected on day one or even week one.

“Staggering injections into individuals, ensuring that not the entire staffing of an ICU receives an injection on the same day, in particular for the second injection - 21 days later for the Pfizer vaccine - should there be some side effects, flu-like symptoms,” he explained.

The vaccine was created in record time, but given emergency use authorization by the FDA.

Dr. Casanova was part of the Pfizer vaccine trial group. While he doesn’t know if he received the vaccine or a placebo, he is confident in its ability to fight the virus.

“There’s been a great deal of planning in our healthcare systems, not just in our region, but nationwide,” he said.

He said having a big health care community in North Texas is a great thing but it means it will take some time to get everyone vaccinated.