HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Texas.
MD Anderson Cancer Center was one of four sites in the state to receive 4,875 of the 19,500 doses of the vaccine sent out Monday morning. An additional 19 sites will receive 75,075 doses on Tuesday.
"They've been preparing for quite some time to manage cold chain storage and they've also undergone training for the reconstitution and preparation of the vaccine when it needs to be administered in the clinic," said MD Anderson Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Welela Tereffe.
More than 80 nurses have volunteered to administer it and they will begin giving the vaccine on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Memorial Hermann is ready too. It's slated to get an allotment on Tuesday and will begin administering the vaccine this week.
The hospital system set to get a total of 16,575 doses. It's unclear how much of that allotment will arrive on Tuesday, but officials have been preparing with super-cold freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine.
"We actually had to buy these ultra-low freezers because most hospitals don't have these types of freezers. You don't need them for traditional medication," said Dr. Bintia Patel, the Vice President of Pharmacy Services for Memorial Hermann.
Methodist Hospital is set to receive more than 5,000 doses on Tuesday, which is part of their 13,650 allotment. They will also start to administer the vaccine to some employees.
"To put that in perspective, between our employees and our affiliated physicians, we're in the 31,000-32,000 employee basis so when you start to think about how do we vaccinate the very front line, that 13,650 will actually do a very good job for us at getting into a pretty good proportion of our staff," said Dr. Marc Boom, the President and CEO of Houston Methodist.
Even while health officials say they can finally see light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of the vaccine, a lot of steps still need to be taken in between shipments and giving the vaccine to Houstonians.
According to health leaders in the state, healthcare providers or workers inside medical facilities, along with nursing home residents and staff, will be the first to get the vaccine. Officials say the focus is on facilities that indicated they will vaccinate at least 975 frontline health care workers since that is the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine.
Additional shipments are expected to occur later in the week. In all, Texas was allocated 224,250 doses of vaccine to be shipped to 110 providers across the state in Week 1 of distribution.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday, Dec. 11. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then accepted a recommendation from an advisory committee for doses to be distributed to people ages 16 and older.
The Pfizer vaccine is expected to hit 21 hospitals in Harris County between today and Tuesday by way of shipping containers delivered by UPS and FedEx.
Six locations, including Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and Ben Taub Hospital, will receive the vaccine.
Texas Children's Hospital said its getting the vaccine on Tuesday.
A spokesperson told Eyewitness News the first round of 3,900 doses will go to the Texas Medical Center location and they expect 975 doses at both Texas Children's Hospital West Campus in Katy and Texas Children's Hospital in The Woodlands.
Below is a list of hospitals across Texas and the Houston area:
Monday, Dec. 14
- San Antonio: Wellness 360 (UTHealth San Antonio)
- Dallas: Methodist Dallas Medical Center
- Austin: UTHealth Austin Dell Medical School
- Houston: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Tuesday, Dec. 15
- Amarillo: Texas Tech Univ. Health Science Center Amarillo
- Corpus Christi: Christus Spohn Health System Shoreline
- Dallas: Parkland Hospital
- Dallas: UT Southwestern
- Edinburg: Doctors Hospital at Renaissance
- Edinburg: UT Health RGV Edinburg
- El Paso: University Medical Center El Paso
- Fort Worth: Texas Health Resources Medical Support
- Galveston: University of Texas Medical Branch Hospital
- Houston: Texas Children's Hospital Main
- Houston: LBJ Hospital
- Houston: CHI St. Luke's Health
- Houston: Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center
- Houston: Houston Methodist Hospital
- Houston: Ben Taub General Hospital
- Lubbock: Covenant Medical Center
- San Angelo: Shannon Pharmacy
- Temple: Baylor Scott and White Medical Center
- Tyler: UT Health Science Center Tyler
A second vaccine, produced by Moderna, is under consideration by the FDA and could be authorized late this week. Moderna's vaccine will be available in batches of 100 doses.
Officials have only five minutes to move the vials into a freezer to make sure they stay cold enough to be effective. The stakes are high with the vaccine as it's all about timing.
"We've got to have a thawing time of 30 minutes. If we thaw it out, it lasts us up to six hours. So we've got six hours of administration time," explained Binita Patel with Memorial Hermann Pharmacy Services.
"We have 18 clinics across the Harris Health system, most, if not all of them are now equipped with the deep freezer situation, so that they can receive the vaccines," Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, President and CEO of the Harris Health System said. "When the amount of vaccine is adequate enough, we can start vaccinating our public."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city has prepared a plan for when the vaccine will be widely distributed to the community.
"When it does come time for the wider community, we want to make sure that communities that have been impacted the most by COVID-19 are not on the back end of equity and distribution," Turner said.
Initial doses are scarce and rationed as the U.S. joins Britain and several other countries in scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible ahead of a long, grim winter. It will take months of work to tamp down the coronavirus that has surged to catastrophic levels in recent weeks and already claimed 1.5 million lives globally.
The move sets off what will be the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, but it also has global ramifications because it's a role model to many other countries facing the same decision.
It offers the ability "in this situation where the pandemic is out of control, to bring hope to the people," Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, told The Associated Press.
Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. However, experts say 60 to 80 percent of the population has to be vaccinated to potentially end the pandemic.
All this week, ABC13 is devoting a half hour to bring you the latest daily developments on how vaccines are being distributed in the area. ACTION 13: COUNTDOWN TO A VACCINE is everyday this week at 6:30 p.m. right here on ABC13. You can stream it free on demand and without a subscription on your favorite streaming devices, including Roku and Fire TV. Just search for the free ABC13 Houston app.
The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.