Memorial Hermann Health System received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 15 and immediately began administering the vaccine to its frontline health-care workers. The system’s very first vaccine was given to Robert Luckey, R.N., who works as a nurse in Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s dedicated COVID Intensive Care Unit. He received the vaccine to a round of applause from his colleagues.
“We have been fighting this battle against COVID-19 since March,” said Luckey. “I’m thrilled there is now a vaccine to help protect us against this virus, and I am very grateful and proud to be among the first in the country to be able to receive it.”
The CDC recommends that health-care workers who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 be the first in the United States to receive the vaccinations. In addition, the state has provided guidance on who will receive the first doses of the vaccine in Texas.
“Today is truly a remarkable day full of optimism for the near future,” said Dr. David Callender, M.D., president and CEO of Memorial Hermann. “We are so thankful to be included in the first allocation of this vaccine. Together, our employees and physicians have treated more COVID-19 positive patients in our hospitals than anyone else in the Greater Houston area, and that’s something we’re extremely proud of.”
In partnership with UTHealth, the system was first in Texas to perform a double lung transplant on a patient whose lungs were severely damaged by COVID-19. In addition, Memorial Hermann and UTHealth are participating in over 30 clinical trials dedicated to COVID-19.
Memorial Hermann expects to receive 16,575 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first allotment, more than any other health system in the Greater Houston area. Moments after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the health system opened up online registration for frontline employees to begin signing up to receive the vaccine, with the first available time slots going quickly.
“It’s been a stressful, exhausting 10 months, so I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it’s an honor for us to be able to offer this vaccine to the individuals who have dedicated nearly a year of their lives to caring for our community during this pandemic,” said Callender. “We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure our workforce is protected, so we can continue providing the same safe, compassionate care our patients have come to expect from us.”
After the vaccine has been distributed to essential workers and vulnerable populations identified by the state of Texas, the vaccine will be more widely available. It is uncertain exactly when this will occur – timing will depend on how quickly the Pfizer vaccine can be produced and distributed, and Moderna’s vaccine as well. As soon as doses of the vaccine are available for widespread use, Memorial Hermann plans to make them available for its patients and members of the community.
“We’re all very hopeful that this will be the turning point we’ve been waiting for since this pandemic began. However, now is not the time to let our guard down,” Callender said. “Our fight with COVID-19 is not over yet, but at least there is finally an end in sight.”
Callender stressed that, although the vaccine is here and others are on the way, it will take months to vaccinate everyone who wants to receive it. This is why it is important to continue practicing the three “Ws”: wearing a mask, watching social distance, and washing hands frequently.
To learn more about Memorial Hermann’s response and resources related to COVID-19, please visit the system’s Coronavirus Resource page.