First COVID-19 vaccines arrive in El Paso; healthcare workers ready for it

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Nearly 3,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived Tuesday morning at University Medical Center in South Central El Paso.

“There is a palpable sense of excitement for everyone,” Ryan Mielke, UMC spokesman said.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, UMC is receiving 2,925 vaccines the first week, while other area hospitals are receiving 975. A total of more than 6,000 vaccines will be distributed to El Paso.

The El Paso Health Department reported eight new virus-related deaths on Tuesday morning, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities to 1,220. Deaths under investigation are now at 576.

Also Tuesday, 188 new virus cases were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed positive cases to 93,455, with 37,031 currently active within the community.

Healthcare workers and frontline responders will be the first to receive the vaccine. That includes doctors, nurses, technicians and other staff. The first vaccines may be administered Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

Healthcare workers and frontline responders will be the first to receive the vaccine. That includes doctors, nurses, technicians and other staff. The first vaccines may be administered Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

“Their families worry about them they worry about them when they leave home, they worry about them when they are here,” Mielke said.

Those receiving the vaccine at UMC also include its affiliates at El Paso Children’s Hospital and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Dr. Armando Meza, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at TTUHSC, said he’s already registered for the vaccine.

“If I’m called Wednesday, I’ll go on Wednesday for my vaccine,” Meza said.

Health experts said they’re excited for what this vaccine could mean for the future of El Paso and the healthcare systems.

“This is the first event that I am very optimistic that will make this pandemic if not eliminated, be a lot more manageable for our healthcare system,” Meza said.

However, doctors caution the public not to forgo safety precautions and say the response depends on the community’s actions.

“We pay respect to those lives lost by ensuring the community gets this right,” Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an infectious disease physician, said.

Dr. Alozie said facial coverings and other guidelines in place won’t be eliminated because there’s now a vaccine. The general public is not expected to even qualify for the vaccine until further phases of distribution, which can be well into the Spring or Summer of 2021.

“The important thing is people understand this is just one piece of the layers of protection that physical distancing and face masking can provide,” Alozie said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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