First vaccines arrive in North Texas

Health systems receive COVID shipments for use in frontline personnel

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
A Hartford Healthcare employee administering one of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut.

The first shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are arriving in North Texas, but it will be a while before most Ellis County residents will be able to roll up their sleeves.

Methodist Health System, which includes the new Methodist Midlothian Medical Center, announced on Monday that it had received the first shipment of the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine was approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

“We are excited to be among the first in the state of Texas and nation to receive and administer this vital vaccine,” James Scoggin, Jr., Methodist Health System Chief Executive Officer, said Monday in a press release.

According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state was allocated 224,250 doses of vaccine to be shipped to 110 providers across the state in Week 1 of distribution. The focus is on facilities that indicated they will vaccinate at least 975 front-line health care workers, since that is the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine. More vaccine will be available for more providers next week.

With this initial shipment, Methodist said it will begin immediately administering the first of two required doses to more than 5,000 frontline staff following federal and state guidelines. This first batch of vaccines is strictly designated for use only for hospital employees and medical staff.

“The first group to receive the vaccine works directly with patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or at high risk for COVID-19,” said Dr. Martin L. Koonsman, Chief Medical Officer. “That includes not only physicians and nurses, but also ancillary staff and technicians, food and environmental services workers, and others who care for patients with COVID-19.”

Baylor Scott & White Health, which includes Baylor Scott & White Waxahachie as well as several clinics in Ellis County, announced on Monday that its first shipment of the vaccine will arrive on Wednesday, and vaccinations for its personnel will begin on Thursday.

Also among the first groups to receive the Pfizer vaccine are those stationed in emergency departments, where potential COVID-19 patients often arrive, and Critical Care Units, where patients at high risk for the virus are often treated.

The Pfizer vaccine requires extreme cold temperatures for preservation, as low as minus-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Along with frontline health care personnel, vulnerable populations such as those in long-term care facilities are identified as a priority to receive the vaccine, according to DSHS. These vaccines will be made available in the coming weeks.

The state’s vaccination plan consists of four phases. Following the initial Phase 1, the second phase will expand the scope of the vaccinations to include broader populations at risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19. Phase 3 will include the public at large with plenty of supply available, and Phase 4 will consist of reduced demand due to most of the population being vaccinated.