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Local EMS waiting to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 4:36 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 17:36:41-05

BRYAN, TX — Cities across the state are receiving the first shipment of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, which was approved late last week.

In Brazos County, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - College Station will be the first facility to receive the vaccine in the area.

The group is set to first vaccinate hospital staff working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19, as outlined in the first tier of Phase 1A directed by the Texas Department of State Health Services

“I think it’s incredibly important that the first people that are vaccinated against this particular virus are those first responders, because they are the ones that are coming into regular contact with this virus,” explained Timothy Callaghan, an Assistant Professor in Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M.

Next on the list of personnel approved to receive the vaccine are long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents, and EMS providers who engage in 911 emergency services.

“We’re that first line of defense. We are the first person that interacts with these folks when they call 911. They get us,” said Cory Matthews, Assistant Chief of EMS for the City of Bryan.

In Brazos County, the health district and the City of Bryan Fire & EMS don't know when EMS personnel will be vaccinated, though they fall under the first tier. Matthews says a lot of it has to do with storing the Pfizer vaccine.

“Part of the problem is the storage requirements for the new vaccine require an ultra-cold storage, and there’s only a few places in town that have that. It’s mainly the main hospitals,” said Matthews.

While there is no official timeline for local EMS to receive the vaccine, Bryan Fire says it can’t come soon enough. Leadership is currently dealing positive cases within the department, and the pandemic is starting to play a role in staffing

“So, if you get a positive here, you wouldn’t want to have that guy transferred to another station to go do overtime somewhere else. So, it's a shift staffing nightmare,” said Matthews.

The vaccine will not be required, but those listed in Tier 1A are highly encouraged to receive it. Experts say the vaccine is the first step to really getting a handle on the pandemic.

“And what we also know is that we need a large proportion of the public to vaccinate against this, so we get to the point that the virus is no longer able to spread in society. This is what we call herd immunity," said Callaghan.

Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - College Station will receive 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming days.