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COVID-19

UT Austin's Dell Medical School Is The First Institution In Central Texas Receiving Shipment Of COVID-19 Vaccine

A "Heroes work here" sign on the skybridge at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A sign reads "Heroes work here" on the skybridge at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin.

Lee esta historia en español.

UT's Dell Medical School is expected to receive a shipment of about 3,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine Monday. It will be the first health care institution in Central Texas to get the vaccine.

Beginning Tuesday, UT Health Austin – the clinical practice of Dell Medical School – will start administering the vaccine to 2,925 front-line health care workers. The university says it is deciding who gets priority based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which puts health care professionals and other high-risk groups at the front of the line.

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The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, with the second given about three weeks later. UT Dell Med says these workers will be receiving that initial dose. Another shipment of the vaccine will be sent later in January.

"It's a very big day," Dr. Amy Young, chief clinical officer at UT Health Austin, said. "This has brought a lot of hope, I think, to the providers, but I think to the community as well."

She called the vaccine distribution a "first step to getting us back closer to a normal life," but also urged people to continue wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hygiene until herd immunity is achieved.

"Illness and disease and death, right now, [are] like deaths that happen in the war when the peace is already being negotiated. We are negotiating the surrender of this virus through a vaccine; now is the time to be vigilant and not take risks."
Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Public Health

Austin Public Health's interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott also said he was encouraged by this first delivery of vaccines to the Austin-area, but that doesn't mean people should let their guard down.

“Illness and disease and death, right now, [are] like deaths that happen in the war when the peace is already being negotiated,” he told KXAN Monday morning. “We are negotiating the surrender of this virus through a vaccine; now is the time to be vigilant and not take risks.”

As the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Austin-Travis County, Escott has warned the area could enter the highest level of risk – stage 5 – as early as this week. He says if that happens, he would recommend a curfew in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

He said the area could see a surge in cases several times worse than it did in June and July if people aren't careful.

But Escott said there’s no question Travis County will get enough doses of the vaccine for everyone; it will just take time for those doses to be delivered. Right now, he said, the area needs about 200,000 doses to vaccinate individuals over 60, which could help the city and county avoid overloading the health care system.

“But it will take a while to get 5-, 6-, 700,000 doses that we need to really feel comfortable,” he said.

UT Health Austin is one of four sites in Texas receiving the vaccine Monday. The Texas Department of State Health Services said it is also sending vaccines to UT Health San Antonio, Methodist Dallas Medical Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The total number of doses across the four locations is 19,500.

Another 75,075 doses will arrive at 19 other sites Tuesday.

Nathan Bernier contributed to this report. This story has been updated.

Got a tip? Email Nadia Hamdan at nhamdan@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @nadzhamz.

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