Three thousand doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Alberta, Kenworthy and Transmountain clinics on Wednesday, Dec. 23. TTP El Paso front-line health care professionals, as well as Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso students and residents who have direct patient contact, began receiving their vaccinations Dec. 28-30 and Jan. 2-4. This includes medical students and residents from the Foster School of Medicine and nursing students from the Hunt School of Nursing who are working clinical rotations. Support staff have also begun to receive their vaccinations.
TTUHSC El Paso has nearly 2,000 employees, 765 students and 249 residents, which includes TTP El Paso, the Foster School of Medicine’s clinical arm. Some TTP El Paso physicians received the first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago as part of Phase I for front-line health care providers at University Medical Center of El Paso.
Armando Meza, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at TTUHSC El Paso and TTP El Paso, received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week and said the moment carries special meaning.
“Being fortunate enough to receive the first available COVID-19 vaccine was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I did not want to miss,” Dr. Meza said. “To witness the success of collaboration and effort among world experts has been an amazing experience. The development of these vaccines is science applied to real life – it brings hope to save us from further hurt caused by this pandemic.”
TTUHSC El Paso is working with community partners to determine how El Paso can best be served with this recent round of vaccines.
“If gaps are identified in the ability to vaccinate those who are on the front lines, TTP El Paso will work closely with these organizations and individuals, including local dentists, to provide vaccines from our allocation.” said TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A.
“It’s critical that as a community we do all we can to coordinate our resources to first vaccinate those who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure so they can stay healthy for the patients they serve. We’ve been battling the pandemic for more than nine months, with our community being one of the hardest hit in the country. Our front-line professionals can all use this good news as we start 2021 and before the holidays. They will rest easier knowing they can better protect their patients and their own families,” he continued.
The Moderna allotment of vaccines was administered at the new Medical Sciences Building II on the TTUHSC El Paso campus, as well as at TTP El Paso’s Kenworthy and Transmountain clinics.
About 40 nursing and medical student volunteers have already stepped up and will continue to administer the vaccines as they did for UMC.
While similar to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the biggest difference is Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in normal freezers and not at -75 degrees Celsius. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is reported to be about 94% effective in preventing COVID-19, compared to a reported 95% effectiveness for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Short-term pain at the injection site is common with both vaccines, along with other common, mild side effects, including fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and joint paint. Moderna’s vaccine is administered in two doses 28 days apart and Pfizer’s vaccine is administered in two doses 21 days apart.
Dr. Meza’s message to the El Paso community is to get the vaccine as soon as they’re able.
“During the pandemic, we’ve learned the lessons of understanding what’s important in life and focusing on what matters,” he said. “We shouldn’t undervalue the amount of human effort that went into developing these life-saving interventions. Vaccines do work and they will protect us.”
Several other El Paso organizations were also on the list to receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine — bringing much needed good news to the Borderland.
TTP El Paso provides more than $31 million of uncompensated care annually and its doctors conduct more than 210,000 clinic visits each year. With more than 134,000 patients served annually, that accounts for 20% of the city of El Paso’s population.
TTUHSC El Paso is one of only two health sciences centers designated as Title V Hispanic-Serving Institutions – and the only one on the U.S.-Mexico border — preparing the next generation of health care heroes, with 48% of students identifying as Hispanic.
Check out our photos from the vaccination rollout: