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Area hospitals begin administering COVID-19 vaccine to frontline workers

Memorial Hermann announced Tuesday that it has received 16,575 doses of the Pfizer-produced COVID-19 vaccine and begun administering the inoculant to its frontline staff that works directly with patients affected by the SARS-COV-2 virus. Houston Methodist has also received doses of the vaccine and has begun administering it to staff.

“We have been fighting this battle against COVID-19 since March. I’m thrilled there is now a vaccine to help protect us against this virus, and I am very grateful and proud to be among the first in the country to be able to receive it,” said Robert Luckey, a registered nurse who works in the COVID Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hermann’s Texas Medical Center location.

According to the Memorial Hermann press release, the CDC recommends health care workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19 be the first in the U.S. to receive vaccinations to protect against the virus.

“I’ve had many describe the day like Christmas morning waiting for Santa’s sleigh to arrive and sitting at the top of the stairs while your parents won’t be down quite yet to open up the presents,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist regarding his staff’s attitude toward the vaccine. “… I am just thrilled that these brave men and women got the chance to get this (vaccine).”

State guidelines for distribution of the virus include such staff receiving the vaccine first according to a Department of State Health Services publication. They are joined by long-term care staff that works with vulnerable clients such as the elderly living in nursing homes, EMS providers who provide emergency services like pre-hospital care and transport, home health care workers including hospice workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

State guidelines then prioritize staff in outpatient care environments, freestanding emergency rooms, and urgent care clinics, pharmacies, those that work in emergency response centers, last responders such as morticians and medical examiners, and then school nurses who provide care to students and faculty.

Memorial Hermann’s statement said the hospital had registered to obtain as many doses of the vaccine as possible as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. That request allowed it to receive more doses than any other health system in the Greater Houston area.

“It’s been a stressful, exhausting 10 months, so I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it’s an honor for us to be able to offer this vaccine to the individuals who have dedicated nearly a year of their lives to caring for our community during this pandemic,” said Dr. David Callender, president of Memorial Hermann.

Both hospital officials and elected officials said it is unknown how long it will take for the production of the vaccine to ramp up enough for the general public to receive it, but they hoped it would not take long.

“We have not won yet, but we know we will, and so it should bring hope,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “But there should also be a reminder for everybody in the community that we’re not through with this and it’s going to take a while for these vaccines to be available to everybody in the country, for there to be enough production of the vaccine so that everybody can get it.”