14,600 COVID-19 vaccines arriving Tuesday in RGV

DHR Health getting bulk of doses

The Rio Grande Valley region is set to receive about 14,600 COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers as early as Tuesday.

Six locations will be receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines approved by the FDA on Friday; five sites are in Hidalgo County and one in Cameron County.

The first shipments will arrive on Tuesday at DHR Health and UTRGV, according to Douglas Loveday, a press officer with the Department of State Health Services.

DHR Health is set to receive the bulk of the doses with an allotment of 5,850. That’s scheduled to arrive sometime on Tuesday, according to a hospital spokesperson.

UTRGV and Mission Regional Medical Center will be receiving 1,950 each.

Rio Grande Regional Hospital and South Texas Health System in McAllen will be receiving 975 doses each, the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine.

In Cameron County, Valley Baptist Medical Center will be receiving 2,925 doses.

Allotments were determined by the Department of State Health Services based on “information submitted by vaccine providers when they enrolled, including the number of health care workers who can be quickly vaccinated and vaccine storage capacity at each site,” according to their website.

In total, the first week’s allocation is 224,250 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They will be sent to 109 hospitals in 34 counties as early as the week of Dec. 14, depending on when the vaccine is authorized for use in the United States, according to information on the DSHS website.

On Monday, the state sent 9,500 doses to four sites in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston. On Tuesday, 75,075 doses will be sent to 19 sites, including in the RGV, Loveday said.

He said they expect the remaining 87 sites will have their vaccines to begin shipping later in the week.

Starr County is not scheduled to receive the vaccine, as of Monday. According to Starr County Memorial Hospital Board President Dr. Jose Vazquez, the hospital is in the process of acquiring an ultra-cold refrigerator needed to store the Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccines will not be sent to public health authorities like Hidalgo County Health and Human Services until perhaps January, Eddie Olivarez, the chief administrative officer, said on Monday.

“It’s all subject to change,” he stressed.

Details about the vaccine’s arrival or distribution in Willacy County remain unclear as of Monday morning.

More vaccines will be available for more providers in the following weeks, including a vaccine from Moderna once it is authorized, according to DSHS.

Local representatives at the county and federal level are looking forward to the arrival of the vaccines in the area, which was hit hard over the summer. Even as of Monday, the number of positive cases reported remained high at 453 in Hidalgo County.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said, “I ask for patience as we take part in the largest vaccination effort in history and I send my prayers that our community will hopefully begin to see the end of this terrible disease.”

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, expressed gratitude but urged to share information on the vaccine that will be offered free of cost on a voluntary basis.

“Our mission now must be to urge our neighbors and loved ones to get vaccinated by offering facts surrounding the safety and efficacy of this vaccine,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

Similar sentiments of gratitude were shared by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, but he continued to urge caution entering the holiday season.

“As a nation, we must continue to practice health guidelines- wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying home so we can save thousands of lives while we wait for distribution,” Cuellar said in a statement on Saturday.