Dr. Varon at UMMC fighting to get COVID-19 vaccines for staff

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- His picture went viral across the world recently.

Dr. Joseph Varon at United Memorial Medical Center was photographed hugging a patient with COVID-19. It was a simple embrace that was much needed for both the patient and doctor in a time when the world is ready to move past the pandemic.

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"Good Morning America's" report on the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, Nov. 29.



"I have seen some of the nurses who lose it. They start crying," Varon said.

It has been grueling non-stop work for the staff at UMMC. Varon has been on the clock for 270 days straight, so when they realized they were not getting any vaccines during the first distribution, he was surprised.

"Initially, I was told it was because of the number of employees UMMC has, which is less than a thousand," he said.

He also said they have tested more than 300,000 people among all of its testing sites and even taken in some patients from other places such as El Paso, but it was not enough for the small hospital to stand out among the rest. His staff is baffled and upset.

"Every day [I get asked], 'Dr. Varon, are you getting us the vaccine?' You can imagine how impotent I feel," he said. "My staff is getting sick. I had a nurse that got sick twice that just didn't sound right."

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Dr. Joseph Varon says he is doing everything he can to get a batch of vaccine doses for his staff.



Now, Varon is trying to get the attention of local and national leaders in hopes of getting at least a small batch of vaccines for this staff. He has sent out a 62-page document with links to interviews, where his hospital has been recognized for its work.

"We are on the front line, we have been working nonstop. I think we have done our fair share. I believe we deserve the vaccine," he said.

If not now, then hopefully, UMMC will get the vaccine in the second round.

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