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7 Houston hospitals to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses today

Shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive today at seven Houston-area hospitals.

Methodist Hospital is set to receive more than 5,000 doses, which is part of its 13,650 allotments. The shipments will arrive at the loading dock between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

The first round of frontline hospital workers, including the nurses and doctors who deal directly with COVID-19 patients, will get that shot in the arm today.

When the vaccines arrive, they’ll go into freezers with a temperature of -80 degrees Celcius. That’s about -112 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than the surface of Mars.

The doses will be stored in the freezer room until they’re ready to thaw for the shots.

The first person who will be vaccinated at Methodist, the nursing director for emergency services, Johnie Leonard.

Leonard says that when she receives the vaccine, she’ll be thinking of her 95-year-old mother. She told that who she will get the shot for, the family members we haven’t been able to see or hug in months.

Leonard encourages everyone to get it for someone they love.

“That is the one thing that you can do that can help the entire country and your neighborhood. I anticipate going over, taking it, and getting right back to work,” she said.

Officials have only five minutes to move the vials into a freezer to make sure they stay cold enough to be effective. The stakes are high with the vaccine as it’s all about timing.

“We’ve got to have a thawing time of 30 minutes. If we thaw it out, it lasts us up to six hours. So we’ve got six hours of administration time,” explained Binita Patel with Memorial Hermann Pharmacy Services.

The first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived Monday in Texas.

MD Anderson Cancer Center was one of four sites in the state to receive 4,875 of the 19,500 doses of the vaccine sent out Monday morning.
“They’ve been preparing for quite some time to manage cold chain storage and they’ve also undergone training for the reconstitution and preparation of the vaccine when it needs to be administered in the clinic,” said MD Anderson Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Welela Tereffe.

More than 80 nurses have volunteered to administer it and they will begin giving the vaccine on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Memorial Hermann’s hospital system is slated to get a total of 16,575 doses and will begin administering the vaccine this week.

It’s unclear how much of that allotment will arrive today, but officials have been preparing with super-cold freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine.

“We actually had to buy these ultra-low freezers because most hospitals don’t have these types of freezers. You don’t need them for traditional medication,” said Patel.

“To put that in perspective, between our employees and our affiliated physicians, we’re in the 31,000-32,000 employee basis so when you start to think about how do we vaccinate the very front line, that 13,650 will actually do a very good job for us at getting into a pretty good proportion of our staff,” said Dr. Marc Boom, the President, and CEO of Houston Methodist.

Even while health officials say they can finally see light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of the vaccine, a lot of steps still need to be taken in between shipments and giving the vaccine to Houstonians.

According to health leaders in the state, healthcare providers, or workers inside medical facilities, along with nursing home residents and staff, will be the first to get the vaccine. Officials say the focus is on facilities that indicated they will vaccinate at least 975 frontline health care workers since that is the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine.

Additional shipments are expected to occur later in the week. In all, Texas was allocated 224,250 doses of vaccine to be shipped to 110 providers across the state in Week 1 of distribution.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday, Dec. 11. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then accepted a recommendation from an advisory committee for doses to be distributed to people ages 16 and older.

A spokesperson told Eyewitness News the first round of 3,900 doses will go to the Texas Medical Center location and they expect 975 doses at both Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus in Katy and Texas Children’s Hospital in The Woodlands.

Below is a list of hospitals across Texas and the Houston area receiving the vaccine today:

Tuesday, Dec. 15

  • Amarillo: Texas Tech Univ. Health Science Center Amarillo
  • Corpus Christi: Christus Spohn Health System Shoreline
  • Dallas: Parkland Hospital
  • Dallas: UT Southwestern
  • Edinburg: Doctors Hospital at Renaissance
  • Edinburg: UT Health RGV Edinburg
  • El Paso: University Medical Center El Paso
  • Fort Worth: Texas Health Resources Medical Support
  • Galveston: University of Texas Medical Branch Hospital
  • Houston: Texas Children’s Hospital Main
  • Houston: LBJ Hospital
  • Houston: CHI St. Luke’s Health
  • Houston: Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center
  • Houston: Houston Methodist Hospital
  • Houston: Ben Taub General Hospital
  • Lubbock: Covenant Medical Center
  • San Angelo: Shannon Pharmacy
  • Temple: Baylor Scott and White Medical Center
  • Tyler: UT Health Science Center Tyler

A second vaccine, produced by Moderna, is under consideration by the FDA and could be authorized late this week. Moderna’s vaccine will be available in batches of 100 doses.

Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. However, experts say 60 to 80 percent of the population has to be vaccinated to potentially end the pandemic.