EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — Health care workers and physicians were among those who on Wednesday received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine through the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at a time when COVID-19 cases are once again spiking in border towns in South Texas.
Dr. Chelsea Chang, an internal medicine and primary care physician with UTRGV and Doctors Hospital of Rennaisance, told Border Report on Wednesday evening that she was relieved to receive a second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the university’s campus in Edinburg.
Just a couple of hours after receiving the booster shot, Chang said she was feeling fine and had Tylenol on hand in case she experiences any chills, body aches, or other symptoms that have been reported with the inoculations. But she added that whatever uncomfortable symptoms she might experience are worth it as thousands in South Texas have died from the novel virus. And thousands more are anxiously waiting to receive a dose.
“I was really excited to get my second dose today,” Chang said via phone just hours after receiving the injection. “We’ve had many patients with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, both patients and co-workers and loved ones. I think we’ve all been affected by COVID-19.”
The rollout of secondary inoculations came a day after thousands of border residents were turned away in the town of Mercedes where Hidalgo County officials on Tuesday offered free coronavirus vaccines for those who qualify. That currently includes healthcare workers, seniors and adults with certain medical conditions. Nevertheless, over 800 cars were in line at 6 a.m. — many having spent the night there — and county officials cut it off to additional people before the sun even came up.
“I’m glad people are wanting the vaccine but also sad that there’s not enough production right now to give everybody the vaccine that wants it. I know there were long lines in Hidalgo County and elsewhere. So keep the motivation and as it rolls out continue to seek it out and we will work to make it available as timely as we can,” Chang said.
Dr. Brandon Cantazaro, an academic hospitalist who is the program director for the internal medicine program with the UTRGV School of Medicine also received his second COVID vaccine on Wednesday.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to receive the vaccine. It’s provided a lot of hope in the midst of great emotions from the impact of this deadly pandemic so a little bit of hopefully light maybe at the end of the tunnel. And I feel incredibly blessed and incredibly hopeful and moving forward a little bit more confident in allowing me to be in the hospital and seeing patients.”
Cantazaro and his residents practice at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg and have lost many patients and coworkers to the disease, he said.
“It’s been incredibly difficult — up and down with emotions. Patients dying alone. Patients dying by themselves. It’s just been horrible and draining but it’s been incredibly rewarding to be there with our community and our residents who have sacrificed to put themselves on the frontlines to help care for this community and the critically ill patients we’ve seen,” he said.
Hidalgo County has had over 53,000 coronavirus cases, including 540 new cases on Wednesday, county officials reported. There have been 2,229 deaths. Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast, has had 30,768 cases, including 303 new cases and five deaths on Wednesday. The total deaths are 1,198, officials reported.
On Thursday, Hidalgo County officials have another free community vaccine clinic scheduled in the town of La Joya “on a first-come, first-served basis,” officials said in a news release.
“We are hopeful that the community responds to this second round of COVID-19 vaccines as well as they did for the first in Mercedes,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said. “As more vaccines become available to us, the opportunity for residents to become vaccinated will be easily accessible.”
More information, including a form that can be printed and prefilled, is available on the Hidalgo County website at www.hidalgocounty.us.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.