Nearly 20 North Texas Hospitals Prepare to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Next Week

Frontline workers who interact directly with COVID-19 patients will be first in line to receive the vaccine, hospital administrators say

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Texas is expected to receive 224,250 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine next week, pending its approval, the Texas Department of State Health Services said Friday.

The state said 109 hospitals in 34 counties would receive the first week's allotment of the vaccine.

Nineteen North Texas hospitals are listed among those set to receive the vaccine by DSHS -- along with the number of doses they'll receive.

Parkland Health and Hospital System is slotted to receive 5,850 doses.

"To vaccinate all our health care workers, first we divide them into groups based on risk exposure risk, and we're going to go in sequence of course," Vice President of Transformational Initiatives for Parkland Health and Hospital System Francesco Mainetti said. "We don't know exactly how many vaccines we'll need to complete our workforce because it depends on the acceptance rate."

There are about 15,000 employees in the Parkland system and Mainetti said half of them are considered frontline workers since they interact with patients.

"The grouping is being determined based on DSHS criteria," he said. "So, first we're going to focus on employees that work at the hospital and have direct patient care exposure."

That includes people who work in the emergency department and critical care units. They'll then focus on primary care clinics.

Mainetti said support staff, like people who help with deliveries and cleaning, will also be included.

"Even though they don't have direct interaction with patients, our nutrition, cleaning services, they play a huge role and they are exposed in the same environment as our health care front line staff," he said.

Mainetti said the first group will be made up of 2,000 employees who will be notified when it's time to get the vaccine.

The hospital is not mandating the vaccine -- it's optional.

"This is because we want to respect the employee decision. We know that even though we consider the vaccine safe, that there isn't much data just based on the fact that it was produced over a few months, less than a year," Mainetti said "We know that some of our employees don't feel comfortable taking the vaccine, so we don't want to impose that decision on them. Now, as we progress we get more data, our position may change, but at least for now, we want to make it optional."

Methodist Dallas Medical Center is following a similar principle. The vaccine is optional but highly encouraged.

"The vaccine appears to be highly effective. The safety profile of the vaccine is quite similar to what we would see with other vaccines," Methodist Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Koonsman said. "The side effects are quite similar and, and we think that this is the most effective tool that we have to date to protect our staff against COVID."

He said they too will receive about 5,850 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We're working on those distribution plans, right now, and the group that we will be targeting first will be those really frontline staff, medical staff and support staff that have been working face-to-face with COVID patients in our COVID units and in our emergency departments," Koonsman said.

DSHS said it has submitted its first version of the Texas COVID-19 Vaccination Plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, it's waiting on approval.

The vaccine requires two doses before it properly works. In trials, the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 and, in addition, appeared to fend off severe disease.

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