AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The first round of COVID-19 vaccinations took place in Amarillo yesterday, and city health officials said the historic day should offer the public hope that the pandemic is coming to an end.
“It’s historic,” said Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson. “It reinforces the hope we have that there is an end to this situation.”
The first doses were administered to healthcare workers at area hospitals.
“We have a lot of smiling faces walking through our hospital in terms of the staff members coming through to get vaccinations,” said Michael Lamenteer, chief medical officer at BSA Health System. “People are tolerating the vaccine very well. No complaints.”
Dr. Scott Milton, Public Health Authority with TTUHSC, was one of the first to receive the vaccine.
“I don’t have a third arm growing out of where I got vaccinated,” he said. “It’s like the flu shot. It’s not a big deal.”
Although health care workers are the first to benefit from Pfizer’s emergency use authorization, officials said the public may receive access to vaccinations as early as next spring.
Casie Stoughton, Amarillo Public Health Director, said those who receive the Pfizer vaccine must return for a booster shot within 21 days and vaccine brands will not be interchangeable.
“The vaccine should be offered regardless of history of COVID-19,” said Stoughton. “If you have had COVID in the past, it’s advised to still get the vaccine when it’s offered to you.”
With this first round of Pfizer vaccines and increased mask use in the community, health officials believe the end to the pandemic is near.
“Clearly our numbers are down, and I don’t think that is any sort of coincidence with our masking order,” said Milton.
Brian Weis, chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Hospital System, said the number of COVID-19 patients at the hospital has decreased.
There are 88 COVID-19 positive patients currently at NWTHS, 38 of which are in the Intensive Care Unit.
“Over the last six weeks, we have been at triple digits,” said Weis. “I think a lot of this (reduction) is due to the fact that we’re all being more conscientious about wearing masks...this is making a difference.”
The Amarillo VA Healthcare System did not receive the Pfizer vaccination yesterday, but officials said they are anticipating the Moderna vaccine next week.
“We are waiting for the Moderna vaccine to be presented to the FDA, which we anticipate will be tomorrow,” said Dr. Rodney Gonzales, director of the Amarillo VA. “Once that gets its emergency use authorization, we expect to get some of that vaccine here...as early as next week.”
Gonzales said the VA’s first priority will be vaccinating the veterans living in their community living center and the healthcare workers placed there.
Though the numbers in the Amarillo area are improving to some degree, public health officials said it remains crucial to wear masks and social distance.
“We’re in the home stretch,” said Stoughton. “This pandemic has certainly felt like a marathon, and we don’t know what mile we’re on.”