State Hospitals receive first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine

Alice Echo News Journal

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced it received the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine for state hospitals in Austin, San Antonio, Terrell and Wichita Falls. State hospital staff were among the first health care providers in Texas to be administered the vaccine. 

“Our staff have been on the front line of this fight for months, day and night, working to protect some of our most vulnerable Texans from this pandemic,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young. “Receiving this vaccine marks a major turning point in our fight against COVID-19.”

The Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, a group of independent experts working with the Department of State Health Services, chose the first health care facilities in Texas to receive the vaccine. Among them are four of HHSC’s state psychiatric hospitals located in Austin, San Antonio, Terrell, and Wichita Falls. The facilities were chosen based on their size and number of employees. Each hospital received 975 doses of Pfizer vaccine Thursday.

"Our staff have been on the front line since day one — and they've been heroes," said Tim Bray, HHS associate commissioner for state hospitals. "We're confident they will continue to do everything available to protect their patients and themselves."

All 3,300 employees at the four state hospitals will be offered the vaccine. In addition, staff will continue to use proper personal protective equipment at all times on campus. If staff choose not to get the vaccine, they will be required to undergo routine COVID-19 testing.

“The very day I heard we were being afforded a chance to protect ourselves and others, I emailed my program director and said, ‘I'm in!’ I hope the next time I see COVID with my name it says ‘immunity detected,’” said Willie Rodriguez, psychiatric nursing assistant at North Texas State Hospital-Wichita Falls who previously battled COVID-19 infection.

HHSC employs 6,956 staff at 10 state hospitals in Texas that provide inpatient psychiatric care to adults, children and adolescents. The Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel prioritized state hospital staff in the first tier of their distribution plan and health officials anticipate receiving additional shipments in the coming weeks. HHSC will work to vaccinate staff in the remaining hospitals as quickly as possible as more vaccine becomes available.

Drawing the vaccine