Houston-area hospital workers begin to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Courtney Fischer Image
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Houston-area hospital workers begin to receive vaccine
To much fanfare, a COVID-19 ICU worker was the first to receive the vaccine at Memorial Hermann Hospital. Watch the historic moment above.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It was an historic day at Houston hospitals as the first healthcare workers received the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 ICU nurse Robert Luckey was the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine at Memorial Hermann Hospital. He was also the first person in Houston to get the vaccine.

Luckey's vaccination was met with much fanfare, the room erupting in applause.

Visibly emotional, even while wearing a mask, Luckey said this has been both a rewarding and trying time.

"It's a big moment because so many people have been touched by the virus, the disease. So I think this will bring hope for a lot of people," Luckey said.

Memorial Hermann and Methodist received their doses roughly at the same time, at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Memorial Hermann was slated to get a total of 16,575 doses.

MORE: Meet the ICU nurse who received the COVID-19 vaccine first in Houston

Meet the first person in Houston to get Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, an ICU nurse at Memorial Hermann.

Methodist Hospital received more than 5,000 doses, which is part of their 13,650 allotment.

When the vaccines arrive, they go into freezers with a temperature of -80 degrees Celcius. That's about -112 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than the surface of Mars.

The doses are stored in the freezer room until they're ready to thaw for the shots.

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.

ABC13 spoke with the first person who will be vaccinated at Methodist, the nursing director for emergency services, Johnie Leonard.

Leonard says that when she receives the vaccine, she'll be thinking of her 95-year-old mother. She told ABC13's Courtney Fischer that's who she will get the shot for, the family members we haven't been able to see or hug in months.

Leonard encourages everyone to get it for someone they love.

"That is the one thing that you can do that can help the entire country and your neighborhood. I anticipate going over, taking it and getting right back to work," she said.

Methodist is hoping to vaccinate at least 2,000 employees a day as the vaccine continues to roll out across Houston.

Here are more of the Texas and Houston-area hospitals receiving the vaccine Tuesday.

  • 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

You can read about the facilities on the allocation list for Week 1 here.

UTMB shared photos on its Facebook page, announcing that campus and frontline employees will receive the vaccine Tuesday afternoon.

The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrived Monday 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.

"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.

These are the first images of the COVID-19 vaccine arrival in Houston, specifically at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Courtesy: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Courtesy: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

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.

Texas joins program to vaccinate residents at long-term care facilities by end of month

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.

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.

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